Arthur Sam Thomas – Major General (Chaplain), United States Air Force

From a contempotary press report:

Msgr. “Sam” Thomas dies suddenly

Rev. Msgr. Arthur S. Thomas, age 65, died suddenly of a heart attack on Friday, January 19, 2001.

Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Friday, January 26, 2001, at the Fort Myer Chapel in Washington, DC. The burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC.

Father Thomas was born July 15, 1935, in Mankato, Minnesota. He attended Loyola High School in Mankato and graduated from Mankato State University with a bachelor of arts in Sociology in 1960. He enlisted in the National Guard in 1953 and served until 1955. He then enlisted in the Air Force, where he served as a Russian language specialist at Waukenaie Air Station, Japan, until 1958.

After attending St. Procopius Seminary in Lisle, Illinois, Father Thomas was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of New Ulm on May 27, 1965, at Holy Trinity Cathedral, New Ulm by Bishop Alphonse J. Schladweiler.

He served as associate pastor of Holy Redeemer, Marshall from 1965 to 1968 and at St. Mary, Sleepy Eye in 1968 when he was commissioned as an Air Force Chaplin, First Lieutenant, and began active duty at March Air Force Base, California.

Pope John Paul II named Father Thomas a Monsignor in 1992.

In 1995 Father Thomas was promoted to Chaplain Major General, and named as Air Force Chief of the Chaplains Service. He was responsible for advising the Air Force Chief of Staff on all matters pertaining to the religious and moral welfare of Air Force personnel. In addition he was responsible for the total chaplin program meeting the needs of all Air Force members regardless of their faith. In this role he acted as the senior pastoral of all active duty, National Guard, Reserve, and civilian personnel serving approximately 1,300 locations in the United States and overseas.

During his military career he was awarded the Legion of Merit with one oak leaf cluster and the Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters and the Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters.

He returned to the Diocese of New Ulm in 1998 and served as Pastor at St. Aloysius in Olivia and Sacramental Minister at Holy Redeemer in Renville.

While pastor at St. Aloysius he became a member of the Diocesan Ecumenical Committee and participated in writing for the committee’s monthly Prairie Catholic column Promoting Christian Unity.

In April, 1999 Father Thomas was the recipient of the Minnesota State University, Mankato, Distinguished Alumni Humanitarian Award. The award is presented to graduates who demonstrate exceptional dedication and exemplify service to others.

Father Thomas retired from active ministry on June 28, 2000 and was residing in Florida.



  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 07/13/1966 – 07/31/1997
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 07/15/1935
  • DATE OF DEATH: 01/19/2001
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 01/26/2001


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