June 18, 1948 ~ June 4, 2021

Born in: Canyon, Texas
Resided in: Bryan, Texas

Alston Vern Thoms died peacefully on June 4, 2021. Alston was farm boy from the Texas Panhandle who became an internationally respected archaeologist and professor of anthropology at Texas A&M University. He was a compassionate and loving son and older brother who pulled his weight on the farm and was always there to lean on when the family needed him. Alston is survived by his wife Patricia Clabaugh; sons John and Eugene and their mother Linda Lewis; sisters Barbara and Ann; granddaughter Zora; grandsons Shasha, John, and Dylan; one niece; and three nephews. He is also survived by a legion of friends, colleagues, collaborators, and students.

Alston was born in Canyon, Texas on June 18, 1948, to Walter Herman Thoms and Doris Katherine Thoms (nee Crumpacker). Much of his childhood was spent in White Deer, Texas, where his father farmed wheat and sorghum maize and raised Santa Gertrudis cattle, His mother taught third grade. They raised their four children to have empathy and understanding for other people, especially those who did not come from privileged backgrounds. Walter did not tolerate prejudice and spoke out against social injustice; Alston took up the torch at a young age and never put it down.

You could not spend time around Alston without learning—he challenged you to question assumption and think critically about the status quo. Alston was a force of nature, passionate about everything he set out to do. He will be remembered as a strong, kind, loving, and generous man whom you could always count on.

Memories Timeline

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  1. Alston is a wonderful and kind person, and was a great mentor and friend. I will miss him and my best thoughts and prayers are with you Pat and family.

  2. Dear Pat and family,
    We are so heartbroken by your loss. We will always cherish the memories of the fun times we spent together with you and Alston. You are forever in our thoughts and prayers. Love, Kristie and Ron

  3. Alston was my mentor and friend. He inspired me to become an archeologist when I was sometimes the only girl on the crew. He taught me not to be intimidated, that everyone has worth, and to never lose passion for learning new things. He was so kind, thoughtful, imaginative, folksy, and funny. I miss him already. My heart goes out to Pat and the family. Hugs to you guys.

  4. Always liked bragging about my Phd. cousin, and had a lot of good times, in White Deere, Texas.

  5. Pat, we are heartbroken for your loss. We hope you can take some comfort in knowing that you are in the thoughts of many, like us, whose lives you have so positively touched. Please accept our sincere sympathy.

  6. Dear Pat and family:
    I wish to offer my sincerest condolences. Alston was one of the kindest and most sincere people I have ever known. His guidance during my years as his graduate student had a profound influence on my life and career and I will be forever grateful. He was my teacher, mentor, and very good friend and I shall miss him greatly. God speed, Dr. Thoms.
    -Steve Ahr

  7. My deepest heart-felt sympathy to Pat, to John and Eugene and their families, and to all who considered Alston a friend, I can’t comprehend the loss you must feel. As a close friend and colleague since meeting in grad school 40 years ago, he leaves a huge void in my life. But Alston’s intelligent, questioning, and passionate energy for understanding and changing the world is something that will not go away. You changed the world, my friend!

  8. It is with incredible sadness that I say goodbye to my friend Alston. I offer my deepest sympathy to the family as well as to others that I have not met, but who also recognize what a special person he was. I first met Alston about 1976 at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico where he, his friend John, and crew were staying while completing a field project in the area. I was a BLM archaeologist charged with overseeing part of their survey work. It may not surprise those who know him that we managed to get into an argument over a questionably plotted site within the first ten minutes of meeting –a professional disagreement hotly, and professionally, and joyfully debated long into the night. I liked him immediately. It was only the beginning of a friendship that lingered and grew as our careers deviated and converged again over the years. Make no mistake, Alston V. Thoms was a superb archaeologist and scholar whose passionate intellect and drive to understand the place of humanity in world inspired many of who worked with him, argued and joked with him, and grew to love him. Farewell Alston. I miss you terribly.

  9. Goodbye, Dr. Thoms. You were a valued mentor and bright soul who forever changed my life. I hope you now find yourself in the Heart of God’s Country.

  10. I saw a beautiful rainbow on June 4th. Now I’ll always remember Alston when I see a rainbow. He was a true gentleman and scholar and mentor to so many. I will be forever grateful to him for letting me bring baby Sara to work with me for the first 18 months of her life, and especially when he saved her life after she ate a paper clip and wasn’t breathing. Alston was compassionate, wise, and dedicated to the causes close to his heart, and I will miss him. For Pat, Jon and Eugene and your families, take comfort in your happy memories and continue to honor Alston in your hearts forever.

  11. Worked with Alston on the Wells Project and at Usk in Washington State almost forty years ago. We corresponded off and on. My sincere sympathy goes out to his wonderful family. Alston’s work with hot-rocks will shape archaeology in the Pacific Northwest for decades to come. He was a good and kind friend. I have lots of fond memories, funny stories, and remember intense methodical and theoretical debates. When Alston gave public presentations he was so prepared and so invested in the topic he would have to pace himself by keeping time tapping his foot. He was fun to be around. Will miss him deeply.

  12. Among his many wonderful and rare qualities Alston Thoms was just the right man to set a nervous young grad student at ease right before a PhD defense. He was keen, kind, and funny. His insights and rigorous methodologies made sure I cited (and continue to cite) him left, right, and center. Sure wish I could have spent more time with him, his light will shine on.

  13. I have long considered Alston one of my dearest friends and colleagues, and his passing is an immense loss. We met about 30 years ago at the Richard Beene site and remained close friends, much like brothers, since that time. Alston had a passion for expanding and sharing his knowledge, and making the world a better place. The status quo was not in his vocabulary! Most of all, he will be remembered for his kindness and willingness to help others. The world needs more people like Alston, especially during these times. I extend my deepest heart-felt sympathy to Pat, John, Eugene, and their families. My thoughts are with you. Farewell Alston. I already miss you.

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