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Dr. Julianne Thomas

November 10, 2020 

Virtual Event

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Julianne Thomas was born the day before VE Day on May 7, 1945 in Pierre, South Dakota to Herbert Ransom Thomas, a rancher, and Harriet Woodard Thomas, a country school teacher. Her early years were spent on the Thomas ranch at Ft. Bennett in Stanley County surrounded by Indian artifacts collected by her grandfather James Oliver (J.O.) Thomas who had been the blacksmith at the fort and she enjoyed searching for arrowheads with Smithsonian archaeologist, Dorothy Frasier.

The family moved into Pierre when Julie started elementary school as the ranch was going to be taken by the Federal Government for the Oahe Dam project and her father was in ill health. Her father died in 1958 the same year that the ranch was inundated. Julie came of age in the second wave of the Women’s Movement and realized that a woman needed to be self-reliant. She faced resistance to courses, college choice and career choice. She graduated from T.F. Riggs High School in Pierre in 1963 where she was active in debate and music. She went to The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. to pursue a career in international affairs but rediscovered her aptitude and interest in science. Dr. Robert Vincent, her advisor, suggested a career in medicine. She chose to go on to medical school at the University of Nebraska as she received a full scholarship there and wanted to return to the Midwest. During medical school her best friend since 7th grade and debate partner, William L. Thomas, came to Omaha the summer of 1969 and decided he wanted to be a life partner. They married in Pierre, SD, on June 12, 1971 and she started pediatric resident training at the University of Iowa where Bill was in law school.

Bill and Julie moved to Cedar Rapids in 1974 where Bill was employed as a lawyer and Julie started her pediatric career as the first female pediatrician in Cedar Rapids. She worked with her senior partner to develop the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St. Luke’s Hospital and built a successful group practice. She became active in the American Academy of Pediatrics becoming the first female president of the Iowa Chapter, served on the Federal Government Affairs committee and became vice chairman of the 6th District of the AAP. From her earliest years in practice she recognized the problems with access to health care and she was closely involved with the Linn Health Services Program, the enactment of the 48 hour stay legislation, and the development of Iowa’s State Child Health Insurance Program (hawk-i). She was so committed to health care policy that she took a detour in 2001-2002 to run for Congress but lost narrowly and returned to her medical career.  Because of her interest in treatment of children with diabetes, she was asked to establish the Diabetes Camp at what is now Camp Tanager in 1987 which she continued until 2012 when she retired from practice.

Julianne was partially aware of her Mayflower ancestry and connection to Adams family on her father’s side of the family from her mother.  But it was only after her mother’s death in 1978 that she received from a distant cousin the full paternal lineage to 10 passengers of the Mayflower and showed that President Adams was a cousin, not an ancestor. Her maternal aunt, Gladys Roby, reported that there was a Mayflower connection on the maternal side as well. They then started decades of research through documents and travel to find that not only were there 11 Mayflower passengers as ancestors but the missing link was her pioneer maternal great-grandmother, Frances Hill Woodard, is buried in the Redmond Cemetery in western Benton County. Through Frances the lineage goes back to Gov. William Bradford, the Delanos and a cousin again to President Adams.

In retirement, Julianne is documenting all the research and continues to find interesting facts and connections. In preparation for the History Center, she realized that the very large etching that was in her family living room as she was growing up was The Landing of the Pilgrims done by Henry Sargent. 

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