The Clements High grad, now at Amherst College, aims to become public interest lawyer
Jeremy Thomas, an aspiring lawyer born and raised in Missouri City, has been elected among 32 new Rhodes Scholars from the United States.
The 21-year-old senior at Amherst College is double majoring in English as well as Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought. After graduating in May, he will enter the United Kingdom’s Oxford University in October 2021.
“I just can’t overemphasize how grateful I am,” said Thomas, who is completing his fall semester virtually from Missouri City. “I’m really excited, more than anything, to hit the books and then get to work and try to do some good in the world.”
For the first time, the U.S. scholars were elected virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic. Thomas was selected from more than 2,300 U.S. applicants, according to the Rhodes Trust.
Of the 32 U.S. Rhodes Scholars for 2021, 22 are students of color. Ten are Black – which ties the record for any single year. The class includes 17 women, 14 men and one non-binary individual.
They will join more than 100 scholars worldwide from 60-plus countries. Those selected meet the threshold qualification of academic excellence but also show promise for leadership, commitment to service and great ambition for impact.
Thomas was educated in the Fort Bend Independent School District and graduated from Clements High School in Sugar Land.
He said college internships with the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta and Georgetown Law School’s Criminal Justice Clinic were “transformative experiences” that taught him how even minor crimes can have detrimental effects, particularly for Black individuals and other people of color.
According to his Rhodes Scholarship biography: “Jeremy serves as student body president of the Association of Amherst Students and launched the campus’s first student-run Office of Student Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. He has also held numerous leadership roles in the Amherst College Black Student Union. His senior honors thesis analyzes limits on the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause, and he has published academic research on death row exonerations.”
The value of the Rhodes Scholarship varies depending on the academic field and degree chosen, but averages $70,000 per year. The Rhodes Trust covers all college and university fees, provides a stipend for necessary expenses during the Oxford residency and vacations as well as transportation to and from England.
Thomas plans to study the relationship between U.S. slavery and our current legal system through a master’s degree in philosophy focused on law or history.
“I’m a book lover and a bit of a nerd, so I’m just excited to be able to be in school for some more time,” he said. “I’m really excited to get to work and throw myself into this career path.”
The scholar-elect credits his parents, Clark Atlanta University alums Trevear Thomas and Dana Thomas, and his grandmother, Pearland resident Helen Wilburn, with giving him a positive start in life. He also said he’s learned from his 18-year-old brother and 12-year-old sister.
“My parents tried to make sure we were all on the same page in thinking about our priorities,” Thomas said. “They also tried to make sure everything that we do is done in excellence.”
Established in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes, the Rhodes Scholarship is an international postgraduate award for study at the University of Oxford. The first U.S. Rhodes scholars entered Oxford in 1904.
Over the years, the program has been challenged for its white supremacist origins through the legacy of its namesake and benefactor, a British diamond magnate and African colonial force. The scholarship was open to only male applicants until 1976 and once excluded Black Africans.
The Rhodes Trust has developed diversity programs in recent years including The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, which provides postgraduate educational opportunities and focuses on building exceptional leadership capacity in Africa.
Thomas follows the legacy of educator, philosopher and author Alain Locke, the first African American Rhodes Scholar, and joins a list of achievers including former President Bill Clinton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, as well as Houston native, NFL draftee and current neurosurgery resident Myron Rolle, M.D.
“I feel certain that my career path is something that will help Black people and other minoritized people – hopefully not just in the United States but throughout the world,” said Thomas, who plans to attend law school after completing his Rhodes experience.