The newest appointees to the board of trustees at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke include a Los Angeles real estate mogul and a co-founder of Cracker Barrel.
James “Jim” Thomas and Jack Lowery were appointed by the state General Assembly. Thomas and Lowery are both Pembroke natives and loyal supporters of the university. Lowery is a 1958 graduate, while Thomas holds an honorary doctorate degree from his hometown university.
The new trustees are visionaries and nationally known entrepreneurs. Thomas is a former owner of the NBA Sacramento Kings. Lowery is a successful corporate attorney in Tennessee.
“Jack Lowery and Jim Thomas are tremendous additions to the UNC Pembroke Board of Trustees,” said Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings.
“While achieving national acclaim as luminaries in their fields, both continue to honor their Pembroke roots. They are inspirational, high-caliber leaders who serve as a reminder to UNCP students that with vision and perseverance, anything is possible.”
Thomas is regarded as one of the real estate industry’s most respected executives. As co-managing partner of Maguire Thomas Partners and founder of Thomas Properties Group, Inc., he helped transform the skyline of downtown Los Angeles with properties such as Library Tower, Wells Fargo Center and the Gas Company Tower.
Thomas grew up across the street from UNCP. His parents, Earl and Ophelia, were both educators and UNCP graduates. Thomas moved with his family to Ohio in 1952.
He received a bachelor’s degree in economics and played basketball at Baldwin-Wallace University. He graduated magna cum laude from Cleveland Marshall Law School with a Juris Doctor degree in 1963 and was editor-in-chief of the Cleveland Marshall Law Review. Thomas received an honorary doctorate degree from Baldwin-Wallace University.
Thomas has held numerous board positions to include Board of Governors of the Music Center of Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Los Angeles Sports Council, Town Hall, and FAST (Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic), an organization that he founded. He joined the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Board of Directors in 1992, and currently serves as its chairman.
Senate Leader Phil Berger expressed his gratitude for Thomas’s service to North Carolina.
“I’m grateful for Mr. Thomas’s willingness to serve on the UNC Pembroke Board of Trustees and for his commitment to making positive contributions to public education in North Carolina,” said Berger.
He received the Alumni Merit Award in 1998 and was inducted into the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges Hall of Excellence in 2014.
Thomas is chairman of the board of Parkway Properties, which merged with Thomas Properties Group in 2013. A former partner in two Los Angeles law firms, Thomas served in the Chief Counsel’s Office of the Internal Revenue Service in Seattle and Los Angeles, and was principal owner of the NBA Sacramento Kings from 1992 to 1999. Thomas Properties Group, Inc. is publicly traded on the NASDAQ.
He currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Baldwin-Wallace, St. John’s Health Center Foundation and the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation.
In 2005, the UNCP Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship and Thomas Family Endowed Professorship in Entrepreneurship were both established as the result of generous gifts from the Thomas Family Foundation, founded by Thomas and his wife, Sally.
The Thomas Assembly Room in the Museum of the Southeast American Indian is named in his family’s honor.
House Speaker Tim Moore characterized Lowery as an extraordinary individual with extensive business experience and legal knowledge.
“The University of North Carolina at Pembroke – and our state’s entire higher education community - are fortunate to have Mr. Lowery accept this leadership role and continue his remarkable career that spans decades of dedicated service and success in both the public and private sector,” Moore said.
Raised in Pembroke, Lowery earned his undergraduate degree at UNCP and his juris doctorate degree from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law.
After starting his law practice, Lowery & Lowery Attorneys at Law, in Lebanon in 1962, Lowery became a city prosecutor for Lebanon in 1963 and city judge in 1965. He was elected to the Tennessee State House of Representatives in 1966. After serving as a state representative, Lowery was elected mayor of Lebanon in 1974. He served as mayor for three years.
Following his stint in public office, he focused his law practice on the areas of federal and state criminal defense, personal injury, construction law, and business law. He has also served as corporate attorney for Toshiba America, Inc., Tennessee Division.
In 1969, Lowery, along with 14 partners, invested in the first Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, one of the nations’ most successful restaurant chains, headquartered in Lebanon.
He served as general counsel for Cracker Barrel for 29 years and continues to serve on the executive Board of Directors.
At UNCP, Lowery established the School of Education Distinguished Faculty Award, as a way to give back to the university that he says changed his life.
He credits his English professor, Dr. Myrtle Pope, with turning his life around and giving him the foundation to succeed in life.
Lowery is a partner in LoJac, Inc., a highly successful highway construction, safety equipment manufacturer and asphalt and concrete production company.
In 1983, along with Don Chambers, Lowery founded LoJac, Inc., which would eventually grow to become LoJac Holdings Corporation, Inc. He served as both the chairman and CEO of LoJac from its inception to 2014.
He continues to serve as chairman of the board of the LoJac Holdings Corporation, Inc. In addition to these interests, Lowery presently serves as chairman for a conglomeration of healthcare companies in Louisiana, Texas and Tennessee, and is an experienced pilot.
Today, Lowery continues to practice criminal and business law in Lebanon alongside his son, Jack.
“The university is grateful to the Legislature for appointing these exceptionally accomplished leaders to join our already strong board,” Chancellor Cummings added.
“Our Trustees bring unique, valuable experiences and perspectives to their service, while sharing a deep commitment to the future of UNC Pembroke.”