Proposal To Rename Phoenix Park To Honor Community Leader Bishop Alexis Thomas

Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 - 9:15pm
Updated: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 - 10:26pm
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Christina Estes/KJZZ
"Aya" was chosen from a list of Native American by the Parks and Recreation Department . If the Parks Board approves, Aya Park would be renamed Bishop Alexis A. Thomas Park.
Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church
Bishop Alexis Thomas is credited with growing one of the most prominent African American ministries in the southwestern United States.
Christina Estes/KJZZ
Bishop Thomas often spoke fondly of his childhood memories at the mini-park.

The Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board will consider renaming a park at its meeting Thursday night.

Covering less than an acre, Aya Park, is classified as a mini-park. But to Bishop Alexis Thomas it was a giant of his childhood.

“He often spoke about how important the park was to him growing up in south Phoenix, how much time he spent there as a youth,” said Mayor Greg Stanton. “And of course the bishop was one of Phoenix’s most respected and consequential faith and community leaders. We all miss him dearly.”

During Tuesday’s policy session, Stanton and the council recommended the Parks Board rename the park near 19th Street and Broadway Road in Thomas’ honor. He led Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church for 33 years, growing its membership from 200 to 4,000.

“This, I think, is a really meaningful way for us to pay tribute for a man who did so much for our city, from serving in really difficult roles for the Phoenix Police Department to taking on a really important leadership with our My Brother’s Keeper Initiative,” said Councilwoman Kate Gallego.

Thomas died this past January at the age of 50, leaving behind his wife and five sons. 

In a letter to the Mayor's Office, Richard Yarbough, administrator for Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church wrote:

"Bishop Thomas was proud to call Phoenix his hometown. He loved the city, the Cardinals, and especially his beloved Suns. However, every person who attended more than one service at Pilgrim Rest knows that Bishop Thomas grew up in South Phoenix at '18th Street and Chipman around the corner from [Aya Park].' I cannot think of any greater way to honor a true Phoenix leader than to rename the park that was so dear to Bishop Thomas for the many fond memories of his childhood."

According to a City Council report, he graduated from South Mountain High School and earned a bachelor of science degree in biblical studies from Southwestern Christian University. Thomas served on the board of directors of the Greater Phoenix Black Chamber of Commerce and as General Chairman of the African American Christian Clergy Coalition which he founded in 2001.

If the Parks Board approves, the city will change the sign to read Bishop Alexis A. Thomas Park.

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