John Speer and Tom Wirth at the Giovanni’s Room reading of “Gentleman Jigger”
Thomas H. Wirth long time member of Men of All Colors Together New York, Independent scholar on the Harlem Renaissance, book collector and publisher, faculty member and union negotiator at Stockton State College, died unexpectedly of respiratory failure on Oct. 10, 2014, at Overlook Medical Center, Summit, N.J.
Tom was an independent scholar of African-American literature, history, and art, with a concentration on the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. He founded the Thomas H. Wirth Collection of African-American Americana at Chicago State University and contributed significant materials to Yale and to Emory Universities. Tom was born on Jan. 6, 1938, in Fargo, N.D., and lived with his family there and in Worthington, Ohio, and Syracuse, N.Y. He earned a B.S. in chemistry at Cornell in 1959 and a Ph.D. from Cal Tech in 1964. He joined the faculty of the historically black South Carolina State College (now University), where he taught for five years, and taught at Southern University and at Mary Holmes Junior College. In 1971, Tom joined the faculty of the new Richard Stockton State College at Atlantic City, N.J.
Tom met, and became the heir of, Richard Bruce Nugent, a writer and artist who was a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance. In collaboration with Mr. Nugent, he founded the Fire!! Press, which publishes a reproduction of FIRE!!, a landmark Harlem Renaissance publication to which Mr. Nugent contributed, and has published books by African-American writers. Tom edited a book of selections from Mr. Nugent’s work, “Gay Rebel of the Harlem Renaissance” (Duke, 2002) and Mr. Nugent’s novel, “Gentlemen Jigger” (De Capo, 2008). At the time of his death, Tom was editor of the Countee Cullen Correspondence Online Project of the Amistad Research Center, New Orleans. Tom was also the editor of the MACT-NY newsletter, which in 2013 received the National Association of Black and White Men Together’s Newsletter Award. Tom leaves his godson, Robert Figueroa of Jersey City, N.J.; his sister, Kathryn Hansen of Iowa City, brother, John Wirth of Stroudsburg, Pa. and his brothers and sister of MACT-NY. Tom was widely admired and respected for his interest and knowledge of the Black experience in America. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
Donations may be made in his name to the New York City LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., New York, N.Y. 10011.