Our Black History Month Profiles were first written for the February 2020 Northport Historical Society newsletters.
Thomas Oscar Wood was born in 1902 to Thomas and Hattie Wood. Thomas Wood Sr. was employed by Charles T. Sammis and when he died, young Thomas was sent to live with Susan Sammis Quackenbush, Charles’ daughter who was married to Dr. Frank Quackenbush, the leading dentist in town. This arrangement was one way in which African American parents ensured the education of their children at that time. Thomas lived in an attic room in the Quackenbush home at 265 Main Street and worked for the family either in the dental office making dental plates, running errands, and later as a chauffeur.
The Quackenbush family treated Thomas more as a son than an employee, and in a time where most of the U.S. was segregated, Thomas was accepted at social gatherings and school.
Thomas attended the school on School Street and was a talented athlete. He was Vice President of the school’s Athletic Association, was captain of the baseball team, and a member of the basketball team. He graduated in 1921, the first African American graduate of Northport High School.
Northport High School Basketball team, 1919-1920; Coach James Carter, center, Tom Wood on right, standing; Seated, Steve Cavagnaro, center, Frank Scudder on right
Thomas went on to marry, own a house at 768 Fort Salonga Road, (Monet Salon today) and have two children. He went to work for Grumman in 1943 and worked there until his retirement in 1966. Thomas’ son, Thomas David Wood, also worked for Grumman as an artist.
Thomas died at the age of 96, in 1999. He and his wife are buried in Genola Cemetery.
You can read more about the Wood family in African Americans in Northport, An Untold Story by Thelma Jackson which is available at the library, or you can purchase a copy by emailing: [email protected]