RIP IN PEACE: Thomas Taylor

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8/24/66 - 2/22/23

Everything I’ve learned on a skateboard I owe to my old man. I looked up to everything he did; I even started pushing mongo at age six because he was skating switch one day and I thought it looked cool. I’ll always cherish our first road trips together down to Florida—me holding the map trying to assist, even though he knew the way to Montesi’s house. Kona, Skatepark of Tampa, Stone Edge, Surf Expo, we hit it all, listening to Iron Maiden, Beastie Boys, OutKast and DJ Shadow along the way. My dad got to ride with my kids Coco and Jesse the same way that he rode with me at a young age, and I’m so glad he got to see it. Although I won’t be dropping in on a vert ramp with them in between my legs as he did with me, the next generation is fired up and will continue on the path that he paved for us.

I’ve met some diehard skateboarders, but none like my father. It was his passion and he always went for it 100% at every session. I remember going to check out a pool with him and he was the first one out of the car. By the time we were walking up, he was limping out, saying he broke his leg. We didn’t believe him and started skating. He drank the rest of his beer, then rolled in. On his way up the waterfall he said, “Yep, it’s definitely broken,” then he hailed a ride to the hospital from a friend. Sure enough, he had fractured it. I couldn’t believe that he actually rode the pool one more time to see if it was broken or not. It was this type of drive that no one else had. My family and the entire skateboard community will miss him greatly. Rest in peace, TFT. —Grant Taylor

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Our dad was a lot of things to a lot of people, but to us he was just Dad—a determined, stubborn, passionate, unpredictable dad, but still a dad. Our life has been unconventional, to say the least, but looking back we wouldn’t have had it any other way. We watched him pour his blood, sweat and tears into Stratosphere and got to witness him build a community that will continue growing long into the future.

He loved hard, he fought hard and he lived hard. He didn’t take no for an answer and he played by his own rules. Atlanta will not be the same without him. Skateboarding will not be the same without him. And our family will not be the same without him. He has left a lasting mark on the world and will be in all of our hearts forever. We love you, Dad. —McKenzie and Sarah Taylor

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The story starts out like most—I was a young kid without a dad, without direction, who found skateboarding. But everything changed when Thomas found me. He took me under his wing since I was a little skate rat. He showed me how it was, what to do and how to believe in myself—not just on a skateboard, but in life. Always with a, Fuck yeah, Stormy, and a pat on the back. If Thomas got behind you, you felt unstoppable. He bred so many of us over the decades. To skate with power and heart, you see it in some but Thomas had it through and through. Thank you, TT. I love you and we will not forget your lessons. Forever in my heart. —Stormy Pruitt

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Thomas was full of ideas. He was a skate rat and a Renaissance man. Without Tom’s influence, the skate scene in Atlanta would be boring. The parking-lot jams, events, backyard sessions, street skating, record-room rips, all will live on in my memory as the best of times. If he loved or hated something or someone, he let you know. He was a different breed that they don’t make many of. Thomas lifted up his friends and was a true family man—a beast with a heart of gold. Thomas Taylor will always be one of my favorite skaters. —David Morico

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Thomas Taylor made an impact on everyone who crossed his path. For me personally, he was my number-one hater, but it came from the heart and behind his criticism was love and advice. Whether it was heckling my skating or heckling me for NOT skating, he was always pushing me and everyone around him to try things out of their comfort zone. His generosity towards the Atlanta skate scene will remain unmatched, and there will be a massive hole in everyone’s lives from here on out. Thank you for always being a friend. —Semmes

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Thomas is not just one of the staples of Atlanta skateboarding; that would imply that there are a lot of people who hold this whole thing together, but that just isn’t that accurate. He has got to be the main one. Throughout the years, Thomas has been a part of so many people’s lives, it’s hard to keep up with. He’d help your mom choose your first Christmas complete, he could be the foreman of your DIY projects, or if you need a story about some crazy shit that happened at Tampa Pro in the ’90s, he’s got that for you too (plenty of those, actually). Thomas has had a huge influence on people’s lives in so many different ways and we all loved him for it. The best thing we can do is try to use any bit of knowledge that he has given us to help ourselves and the people we love around us. We all love you, Tom; we have for a long time; you will continue to be a driving force in all of our lives forever. —Ellias Kitt

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Professional skateboarder, father, grandfather, trailblazer, business owner, filmmaker, photographer, MC, DJ, builder, event coordinator, teacher, mentor, pillar of the community and to those of us lucky enough, a friend. Not only did Tom wear so many hats in life, but he treated them all with the highest level of integrity and pride. The Tomfather cultivated the skate scene in Atlanta to become a place like no other. Whether you were a student of Mr. Thomas for skate lessons or a big skate team rolling through town, he was endlessly generous with his time, resources and stoke. The community will never be the same and there will most definitely never be another like you. We’ll miss ya’, T. —Max Yoder

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Thomas was the GOAT. Any time I went into Stratosphere, I was always asked, Are you straight on proddy? If I said yes, It was always followed up by a, You sure? Then the questioning would repeat until I got some proddy or I decided to leave. There was always some sort of storytelling going on in the shop, too, and I never heard Tom tell the same tale more than once. Shout out to Tom for correcting me and my homies when we got a trick name wrong and thanks for all of the trick tips. His drive to skate was a true inspiration and seeing his impact on multiple generations was awesome! Tom was truly one of a kind. —Blamos

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A skateboard fanatic who opened his life up to anyone willing to involve themselves. An opinionated and wonderful human who helped thousands of local kids, set up a million skateboards, went through all of skating's cycles and came out loving every bit of it. A true lifer with a radical blueprint for living, loving and sharing. Thank you for all of it, Thomas. We owe you. —Jeremiah Babb

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Thomas Taylor was a gift to Atlanta and every town needs a TFT. He spent his life dedicated to skateboarding and his family. If Tom liked you then you were a made man, but if you rubbed him the wrong way—forget about it. Just pick another town. He was rough around the edges, but if you knew him you’d know he’d do anything to help you out. Thomas taught me lots of things about growing up. He was the closest thing I, and a lot of other Atlanta skaters, had to a father. Thomas was a living legend and ATL will never have another like him. You are greatly missed, Thomas, and appreciated. You’re one of one. —Sean Stockton

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Thomas called me a few weeks back and at the time I couldn’t pick up. If you ever received a call from Thomas then you know what I’m talking about. I called him back later in the evening and had a nice long conversation on speakerphone with him and my wife about everything going on—everything in Atlanta, in Los Angeles, at the shop, in skateboarding, updates on his kids and future plans for travel. I still have so many voicemails from him on my phone from over the years from the times I couldn’t pick up, but when I did it was the same every time—he absolutely loved talking about skating and giving us the news on his kids and who’s ripping in Atlanta (and who’s blowing it). This guy was 100% skateboarder/father/friend. He was one of a kind. Kate and I are really going to miss you. Thank you for always being yourself and thank you for all of the memories. —Ryan Flynn

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Thomas Taylor was already a legend when I met him in late 1994. I told a few friends I was moving to Atlanta and they all said, Go to Stratosphere and ask for Thomas Taylor. I had heard of him because he had been in the mags and had won the NSA Nationals in ’90 or ’91. I knew the guys from the South were a pretty tight-knit crew, so I was a little intimidated when I went unannounced to meet Thomas at the shop. I brought a peace offering of two 40-ounce bottles of Champale malt liquor, hoping that he liked to party in the middle of the day like I did. After an awkward silence and a, Who the fuck are you? we hit it off. He invited me to skate the 15-foot wide vert ramp he had built in a warehouse space he rented down the road from the shop. I couldn't believe my luck. We became good friends. Tom was the first skater I met who had a kid—Grant—and owned a house with a separate apartment upstairs with the infamous record room where Tom spun obscure jazz into the wee hours. He was also the first skater I met who listened almost exclusively to jazz. He was a grown-ass man who had a family, a business and still ripped at skating. He changed my life by showing me that it was possible to be many things at the same time. I will always remember him for that.

Thomas was a generous guy. He was also an opinionated asshole at times, and hundreds of people can tell you about the time/money/ energy he spent to help them out. Here's my story: I told Tom that I wanted to start filming skating and Tom wanted to make a shop video for Strat and his new company Torque, so he bought a camera and told me
to figure it out and start shooting. The first thing I ever shot was Tom doing the Marta rail in Atlanta on his 30th birthday. He took me and my wife out for a steak dinner afterward. That was the first time a skater had ever taken me out for a steak dinner. Twenty-five years later, I found myself in New Zealand shooting Grant on an Antihero trip. —Buddy Nichols

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Tom was not just a great father to his family, but also a great father to many skateboarders. He was a mentor, a teacher, an influencer and a motherfucking badass! The Ambassador of Stratosphere and Atlanta. You will truly be missed by so many, but don’t worry—we’re gonna keep putting gas on the fire you lit many years ago! Love you, brother. —Graham Bickerstaff

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In the light of the great masters of our kind, none more so deeply embodied the spirit of the craft as the form of Thomas Taylor. A devout defender of the faith, Thomas lived and practiced in the old ways—bound by a stern Southern code of fire, rebellion and lawless aggression. Its oath was tough, hellbent and demanding in its strict vigilance over any and all who dared transgress its law. Yet in all its fury, Thomas knowingly preserved special rites and rituals from days long past which he so lovingly bestowed on those certain young souls who came willing and able to have them and hold.

An edification by Thomas Taylor was of the highest honor to those so worthy and well qualified to receive and continues on in the styles of those left branded under his mark. By his golden heart and hand comes a decorated lineage of eloquent practitioners of the craft, but none more so taken than Grant—a torch-wielding son of his own blood and fire, whose mastery lays solemn testament to his father’s spirit.

In the final wake of his last roaring blaze, may we avow its light to guide us beyond the darkness of the grave, lest we meet our own fate in the grip of its flame. By the sword, so help us. —Cullen Poythress

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Thomas not only pushed Atlanta skateboarding, but completely directed it onto its own path. Overall, that’s the spirit of Stratosphere—to go beyond what anyone thinks or says, no matter what. Thomas didn’t give a fuck if you could kickflip front feeble. He cared about speed, agression and commitment. I remember him yelling at me mid-air, as I stepped off a boneless from the deck into the bowl at Fourth Ward, “What do you wanna do when you get older?!” That exact second, hearing him say that is what pushed me to be where I am now—100%. I wouldn’t be anywhere in life if it wasn’t for Stratosphere. Every once in a while I hear that same voice in my head. That’s what keeps me going and why I’m here today. —Akobi

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Thank you, Thomas, for the incredible amount of help you gave me and countless others throughout your life. I first met Thomas 30 years ago on one of my first Thrasher road trips. We were driving around the country in a 1978 Buick Skylark with no air conditioning from New Orleans to Atlanta in August. Thomas offered us nothing but the best Southern hospitality. I stayed at his house many times in the 1990s and it made ATL feel like a home away from home. He supported my photography back when I was in school. He let me layout ads for his company Torque, take weird photos and have fun. Thomas introduced me to some really great people and places. It’s been eight years since I saw him last, but we reconnected back in October. I sent him some old photos of Grant from when he was very young, which led to a great phone conversation that I will always cherish. Rest in peace, my friend. —Adam Wallacavage

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Tom, aka TFT, Tomatillo, Tito, Mouse, C’mon Tom—every single time I would see T, he would welcome me with open arms and ask me what I wanted or needed, or he would give me a beer, a shirt or invite me to a meal. He was always generous, always looking out for people. Tom always spoke so highly of his family and how rad the Strat team was. T was always “doin’ it.” He was doing something to push forward, push skateboarding and make a difference in the community. He was the catalyst for the Atlanta skate scene, and I feel honored to have had him in my life. He was a true skateboarder, the realest in game, a lifer. His impact was so enormous that he will never be forgotten. RIP, Tito. Love you, brother. —David Clark

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I met Thomas when I was a lost teen, after my brother Angel went into the military. I went out to Little Five Points for the first time without him, and I remember going into all the stores that he would check out—Stratosphere was my last stop. The shop was open after hours for a Halloween parade and I tried buying a shirt. I got told, Shop’s closed, even though it was wide open. I ate it, went to put the shirt back on the rack and then Thomas said some vague words and made me take the shirt home. I wore that thing until the sleeves fell off. From that interaction onward, I know he was a kind soul—even if he wasn’t kind all the time and he never remembered me. Every time I’d visit the shop it was like I was meeting him for the first time. But I’d take the heat, get the product I needed and keep moving. I didn’t know his name until someone tried throwing dirt on it for a similar encounter. I defended him and I will ’til the end. If you weren’t tough enough to deal with the Thomas experience, then that’s your own problem. That’s something I miss about the way things used to be—it’s not always sunshine and rainbows and expectations are just a myth. That’s something I already knew, but Thomas made it a fact. I’m glad to have been able to become someone he trusted and actually considered a friend. I’m not sure who I’ll be bothering next about vert questions, names of grabs and skate history in general, but I’m glad he didn’t mind me doing so. Atlanta and the whole skateboarding community is in debt to this pioneer who paved the way with originality and grace. RIP THOMAS FIELDING TAYLOR, the one and only. I’ll think of you every day for the rest of my life and will take your opinion in consideration ’til the end of time. —Marlon Garcia

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Thomas Taylor was 100% skateboarder. I’m so thankful to have had such an awesome, inspirational person touch my life and the lives of so many other people from all different walks of life. He was involved in so many different aspects of this multi-faceted skateboard culture. “See you in the deep end,” Thomas. Thank you, brother! —Kurt Crocker

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A few years back, I found myself in a little bit of trouble and the police went to Stratosphere to look for me. Thomas was working at the shop and when they asked if he knew of my whereabouts, he proceeded to tell them that we did construction work together, that we’d been in an argument and that I split town with some of his tools. He basically made me look sketchy. Then he called me and told me what he had just done and laughed about it. Dude? Seriously? C’mon, Tom. —Pat McLain

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I’ve been friends and skated with Thomas for over 35 years. We’ve had many good times on and off the boards; I have way too many stories to tell, but he always held down the Atlanta skate scene and was 100% skateboarder. He will definitely be missed by me and everybody else in Atlanta skateboarding. —Jimmy O’Brien

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Thomas, you saved me from baseball. You helped raise me and I’m going to miss your presence immensely. You’re one of the coolest and most genuine people I ever met and all I can do is try to be a little bit more like you as I go on, not giving a fuck what anyone thinks. I love you so much, Tom, and we’ll all see you again one day. —Graem Kinsella

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Like many people in Atlanta, I’m still processing the loss of Thomas Taylor. Thomas has been a part of my life for over 20 years. He had a special knack for bringing together all kinds of different rad people—not just skateboarders, but artists and craftsmen, too. He had a special kind of energy. When he was talking to you, he made you feel special and important. He was such and integral part of our community because he was the one who tried to keep us in check. If he was hyped on you, everybody was hyped on you, and if you were blowing it, he was the first one to let you know. So many of the most important people that are in my life I met because of him. He brought us all together and turned us into a family. Thomas was so many things to me: a father figure, a friend, a leader. And I am not alone—many around the world are feeling the loss of Thomas, but in our sadness there is strength that he brought us all together and we will stay united in his honor. —John Manfredi

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I met Thomas back in January 2012, a few days after moving to Atlanta from North Carolina. I spent a good amount of time at Stratosphere trying to assimilate into the scene and meeting the countless people who share the common M.O. of skateboarding and being a part of such an active community, not to mention learning about the rich culture and history that now spans decades. I referred to Thomas as Mr. Taylor for about the first year in an attempt the show respect, but also partly because I was a bit intimidated. Here was a guy who’d been holding it down for 30 years, and I was just a fresh face, eager to fit in and be a part of something so special. As some time passed and I got to know the crew, I started to feel like I was a part of the greater whole and my adventures in Atlanta began. I’m extremely grateful to have called him a friend and to have shared so many memories, laughs, meals and trips.

The thing that stood out to me about Thomas—other than his vast knowledge of skate history and unorthodox/hilarious vernacular—was the confidence and faith he had in the people around him. I was so fortunate to have someone believe in me when I was in a difficult time in my life. I’m sure others can also attest that Stratosphere and Thomas truly provided people with a place they could proudly and graciously call their home. His love and support was truly unwavering. I hope that we can all take that quality from him and practice it in our own lives, as his generosity and compassion for his family and friends remained steadfast ’til the end. I know there’s a big session waiting on the other side with lots of hollering and laughter. As he would say, “See you in the deep end!” Love you, TT. —Sam Buxton

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In the world of gladiators, Thomas was a viking! I loved that dude so much. —John Montessi

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I met Thomas in the late ‘70s through skateboarding. It was an amazing time! Spots were blowing up all over Atlanta. The Kroger bank, ramps were being built, pools were being drained and the first parks were being poured. Skating was evolving quickly. From carving down neighborhood streets to kickturns on ramps to airing out pools, Thomas was there from the beginning, doing it better than everyone else. He was naturally sick! I always said he had something in his genes that produced his talent. He was born to rip! And I was right; just look at Grant! Skateboarding will never be the same without you, brother. You always brought the fire and we’re going keep it stoked! I’m going to miss you and the good times we had together, brother. RIP, Thomas Taylor! —Ian Awbrey

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The sudden passing of my buddy, my rival, my longtime skater colleague has shaken me to the core—very few of my friends I started skated with in the beginning (1977, for me) lasted as skaters ’til the very end. From skating on the National Skatepark team together, riding contests, SO MANY SESSIONS, to working weekends at Stratosphere when he first opened on Cheshire Bridge Rd. Thomas was one of the few people who could push me just by being there. I remember when he started dating his soon-to-be wife Rachel (Grant Taylor’s wonderful mom), turning pro along with myself and Jimmy O’Brien, creating Torque skateboards and helping Grant and his two sisters be the best they could be. He became the heart of Atlanta skateboarding, helping keep the streets and transitions full of new riders in his wake. I’m rambling because the memories keep flowing. This was incredibly difficult to write. I’m gonna miss you, my favorite asshole, my friend, Thomas “Mouse” Taylor. —Don Hillsman

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I’ve known Thomas for more than half of my life. I went from seeing him as a father figure to seeing him as one of the homies I grew up with. He taught me so much over the years about life and even more about skateboarding. He could talk you through learning a trick like no one else—he somehow always had some little thing that would make it easier. I am beyond grateful for everything he has done for me and I will always remember the good times we had. I love you, Thomas, forever! —Matt Jordan

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“Dude, you don’t even know…” Thomas was the real deal. —Santi Menendez

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You were many things to many people—from a brother, father, rider to a trailblazer. One thing about Thomas is he was what he'd call a lifer in skateboarding. He was 100% skateboarder and loved the people around it. Strong, opinionated, bold and in your face, Thomas was truly one of a kind. I was very blessed to have you in my life. You believed in me. You were one of my favorite people to skate and hang with. Whether if it was listening to records, watching Star Trek or talking about life and business, I really cherish those memories. You have greatly impacted my life and I can’t thank you enough for that. I still can’t believe it, honestly. I street skated with you the other week; you were ripping (as always). Thanks for all the advice and wisdom you gave me. There is not going to be another Thomas Taylor. We love you, T! I’ll see you in the deep end again someday. —Jon Freeze

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Thomas was the absolute embodiment of skateboarding, period. He was also the type of person who, once you got to know him and he got to know you, that was it—you were locked in. You had to really fuck up to lose Tom’s friendship. You know how they say, Respect your elders? Well, he was an elder of mine that had my highest respect. I think what I admired most about Tom was just how much he accomplished in his life: he traveled the world, ripped at skating, owned one of the most prominent skateshops in the country for the past 37 years, raised a family, and on top of everything the guy was an absolute encyclopedia of knowledge. Gaining Tom’s friendship is an incredibly proud feeling. He was the life of the party. He was the person you looked to for advice or just looked to for a good story—Tom was a hilarious storyteller. I don’t expect to ever meet another quite like Thomas Taylor and I will forever be grateful for everything he did for me. He made me feel a part of something, he always had my back and he always made me smile. Thank you, Tom. —Nick Gordy

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I’ve been around Thomas Taylor for years, watching him skate, watching the shop grow, watching the people he brought around him and making those people his family. There’s always been mixed messages when it comes to Thomas, but he’s always been good to me. I loved to watch him; I was a fan! And his son Grant Taylor—he reminds me so much of Thomas. He’ll keep the skateboard scene going in Atlanta. Tom’s gonna be missed. —Fred Reeves

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Thomas was a purist, a connoisseur and lover of skateboarding. He rolled with a tight crew of like-minded individuals yet helped create a scene much larger. His social web through Stratosphere touched people from around the world. He was a solid friend. We met in the late ’80s on the deck of some ramp I can’t remember. He skated fast—which I do remember. Later, he became a dad to three kids who he loved greatly and often talked about. He was passionate about what he did and had a great impact on his surroundings. I’ll miss visiting him and catching up while spinning records at his pad, and my heart goes out to his loved ones. RIP, Thomas. —Remy Stratton

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I met Thomas Taylor in the late ’80s and asked him to ride for Schmitt Stix. He already had Stratosphere at the time, so it was clear he was into cultivating his own skate community. This relationship eventually morphed into him riding for New Deal. To Thomas, it was all just skateboarding—the terrain didn't matter; he skated everything and was always impressing everyone along the way. He always had an opinion, but it was genuine from his core perspective and he wasn't concerned if you liked it or not—he was going to express it regardless. Thomas built ramps and DIY cement spots so he could skate with his son Grant. I remember riding the mini ramp at the Skatepark of Tampa with them over 20 years ago when I used to build mini boards for Grant to skate. Thomas knew this kid was going to be a really good skateboarder, and we have seen, and will continue to see, Thomas’ influence every time we see GT skate. It’s up to the next generation of ATL rippers to fly the flag for skateboarding in TT’s memory. —Professor Schmitt

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The first time I met Thomas I was intimidated and unsure if I even wanted to get to know him. But after years of being around Atlanta and putting in work to be respected in the community, we ended up becoming close friends. From him trusting me with Grant to just having faith in me to be part of Strat and help push the community he helped grow, I’ll never forget him. There wasn’t a time that I saw or hung out with Tom that he didn’t ask me how my family and I were. I’m going to miss him and there will be a spot missing where he once was in my heart and in this community. Gonna keep pushing for Tom and try to keep making him proud. —Justin Brock

053 fl thomas crew 2020 brook 2000Rowan, Manchild, Cody, KB and Tom     Photo: Brook

054 cody thomas fl 2020 brook 2000Flicked up with Cold      Photo: Brook

All you need to know about Thomas is that he was the most kind, loving and generous asshole that you could ever meet. He wasn't an asshole in a bad way, though—he just held people to a higher standard and expected everyone to tow that line, if he knew you or not. He helped so many people in so many ways, but what he did for just skateboarding alone, for the city of Atlanta, is unimaginable. When skateboarding died in the early '90s, he held the shop down; he paid for pros to come to the city for demos. He even built and paid for a training facility for a period of time, just to keep his friends and his team skating when there were no indoor parks to skate. Many people owe their skateboarding careers to the first steps that Thomas helped put in place. He could back up anything he said, on and off the board, and was never afraid to speak his mind. He pretty much did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, as rules and laws did not seem to apply to him. He was like a brother to me, a great father to his children, the owner of one of the most well-known skateshops, an amazing skateboarder all around and a friend to so many people, touching more lives than I ever could have imagined. You were blessed if he crossed your path. He will be missed. —Jason Guthrie

075 Taylor SkateZoneATL 1989 Ogden 143 2000FSO at Skate Zone in 1989    Photo: Ogden

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T was a force and one of the realest people I’ve ever met. If you ever needed a reminder, he’d definitely be the one to tell you to Keep your foot on their necks, don’t let up, keep doing you and just fucking send it. We thank you for everything you’ve done for us, Thomas. Love you. —Shena Robertson

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I first met Thomas when I was about 13 on a family vacation visiting my uncle. I had convinced my mom to buy me a board from Stratosphere. This would’ve been around 1989—the shop was small and 100% skateboarder. I knew I didn’t want this guy to think I was a poser, but I probably was, and he probably did. Eventually I grew, my skating matured and I moved to Atlanta in 1998. I immediately tried to get on the Strat team. I was friends with a bunch of the guys on the team and I was skating with the best skaters in the city. I thought for sure Tom was gonna put me on. He was like, Nah. Once again, I didn’t want this guy to think I was a poser, but I probably was, and he probably did. Over the last 25 years, Tom and I became closer and closer. I have a thousand stories to tell, whether we were working a shift or just sitting in the shop on a rainy day, late night at the house playing records or skating a pool with Pat and BHD and the boys. It was never boring with Tom around, and I never stopped hoping that he didn’t think I was a poser, but I probably was, and he probably did. —Jed Davis
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044 phelper thomas bio ohio 2018 brook 2000 In good company    Photo: Brook
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