A native of Palestine, Texas, William J. Thornton was born on August 17, 1923. When he graduated from high school, World War II was being fought in Europe. Bill Thornton joined the Army Air Corps and became the leader of the team in North Africa to set up America's first High Frequency Direction Finder Network.
His military training would eventually lead to a 30-year civil service career culminating with retirement in 1987 as Deputy Director for Manpower and Organization, Electronic Security Command, Kelly AFB.
Prior to joining ESC, Thornton earned an education degree from Texas A&M University in 1950 and was a teacher and coach for Brenham (Texas) High School, where he taught the importance of "learning the basics" and "being competitive."
Bill and his wife, Lois (who passed away in 1994), were always interested in their four children's health, homework, report cards, school friends, and school events. According to Thornton, "From this little sacrifice as parents, we got the greatest reward: well-adjusted, well-educated children." All four of his children graduated from Holmes High School and are now in professional careers. Thornton's interest in his children and their education led him to serve Northside as President of the Lackland City Elementary PTA, Rayburn Middle School PTA, Holmes High School Booster Club, and Treasurer of the Northside Council of PTAs. It was his involvement in PTA that led him to run for the Northside School Board.
Thornton was elected to the Board in April, 1968 and served seven consecutive three-year terms. He served as School Board President in 1973, 1974, and 1985, as Vice-President three times, and Secretary twice. He represented NISD on the Bexar County Federation of School Boards (where he served two terms as President) and on the Board of Directors of the Texas Association of School Boards.
"When I joined the Northside Board 21 years ago," Thornton recalled in 1989 at the dedication of Thornton Elementary," we were just a poor little ol' bedroom school district. Now we are the 5th largest and fastest growing in Texas with a reputation we can be proud of. "
NISD achievements to which William J. Thornton contributed include reading specialists and music teachers for all the schools, the PALS ( Parents Assisting Learning ) volunteer program, successful bond elections to construct 30 new schools and accommodate growth (from 14,000 students in 1968 to 50,000 students in 1989), the Athletic Complex, Paul Taylor Field House, Northside Memorial Stadium, Aquatics Center, Inselmann Field, tennis and soccer facilities, and Northside Activity Center.
Says Thornton, "I always felt we could not neglect any part of Northside students' education, just as I felt Lois and I could not neglect any talent in our own children. Teaching, CPR training for students and staff, bus safety and economics were concerns of mine as a Trustee."
"I also believed in getting out there with the best. If somebody had a better mousetrap, it was to our credit that we'd take a look at it. We looked at winners in school districts everywhere in America. Often, we figured out ways to do it better and at less cost."
"Winners" Thornton endorsed include Northside's nationally-recognized pre-kindergarten and bilingual education programs, special education, high school advanced placement courses, and the competitive athletics program for female students.
Mr. Thornton passed away on February 23, 2007. He was 83 years old. He was an advocate for the district, for all children and for the educational community. Mr. Thornton felt it was a mistake to think we can send someone off to 'be on their own.' "Children need us for as long as we live," he said. "Growing up should be a process of growing closer, not farther apart."
Although we can no longer maintain a relationship with our namesake, a memorial bench has been placed in front of our school. The special bench and live oak tree which it surrounds is in honor of his dedication to the children within our school, our district, and our community. Mr. Thornton felt that it is the concept of 'community,' that makes America strong. We strive to maintain a relationship with Mr. Thornton's family so that his memory will live on in our school.