Partnering to create a new scholarship

Our salute to Black History Month includes a look back at Louisville Water’s past and looking forward to our future endeavors. This week we want to introduce the newly formed Thomas Family Scholarship for Black high school students here in our community.

This $10,000 annual scholarship will be awarded to a graduating senior who will continue higher education studies in Kentucky. This award is administered by the YMCA’s Black Achievers Program and funded through a grant from Louisville Water’s Board of Water Works.

For Black youth, gaining access to higher education after high school, such as college and trade schools, can be challenging.

“Recognizing racial disparities in secondary education continue to exist, Louisville Water is committed to being a positive force for change,” said Louisville Water Vice President Terrence Spence. “Through the Thomas Family Scholarship, Louisville Water acknowledges pioneers that helped shape the company but can also help remove barriers and create a pathway to higher educational opportunities to local minority students in our community.”

The award is named in honor of the earliest documented Black employees on Louisville Water’s payroll. James H. Thomas appears to be the first and longest serving of the Thomas family members. He began his career in 1872 as a porter, moved into a messenger role, and then transitioned in 1876 into the position of on-off man.

Eventually, he became the first on-off man in 1900. He later switched positions once again to become the Second Floor Porter until he departed for unknown reasons in 1905. James W. Thomas only worked at the company for a few years in the late 1870s as a laborer and teamster. Later in 1882, Thomas L. Thomas began working as porter or janitor. He ended up staying in this role for the next 17 years.

Read more about our research on the Thomas family in a web story published last year on

Louisville Water will announce the winner of the scholarship on Sat., Feb. 27 at the 42nd Annual YMCA Black Achievers Awards Celebration, which will be held virtually this year.