John was born on January 28, 1982 in Nashville, TN to Dr. John (deceased) and Mrs. Harriett G. Thomas in George W. Hubbard Hospital. He graduated high school from Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School as a member of the National Honor Society in 2000. John attended in the 1998 Tennessee Governor’s School for International Studies and was named by the Tennessee Academic Coaches Association to the 1998-1999 All-State Academic Bowl Team. He was also an avid participant in the Tennessee YMCA Youth-in-Government Program and represented Tennessee at 1999 YMCA Conference on National Affairs in where he received an Outstanding Delegate Award.
He received the Bachelor of Arts degree (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in 2004 from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia with double majors in International Studies and Spanish. During his undergraduate matriculation, John traveled abroad frequently spending his freshman summer at the Pontificial Universidad Madre y Maestra in Santiago, Dominican Republic and junior year at the Universidad de Sevilla in Spain as a Charles E. Merrill Scholar. While at Morehouse, he was also a member of the three-time (2001, 2002, 2004) National Champion Honda Campus All-Star Challenge Academic Quiz Bowl Team, Student Senate and was President of the Atlanta University Center Tennessee Club.
Upon completing his degree, he was awarded a 2004-2005 U.S. Student Fulbright Fellowship to Peru where he conducted research on the evolution of Afro-Peruvian Civil Society from 1980-2004 and interned at the Center for Ethnic Development. John enrolled in the Princeton University Woodrow Wilson School Master of Public Affairs program in Fall 2005 in the Development Studies Field. While at Princeton, he served as the Co-Chair of the Woodrow Wilson School Action Committee, Treasurer for the Black Graduate Caucus, and Assistant Editor for the Journal of Public and International Affairs. John pledged the Lambda Lambda Sigma Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. He interned at the World Bank country office in the Dominican Republic in 2006. In 2007, he helped organize a student-led consulting workshop for Afro-Honduran and Indigenous Congressional legislators in Honduras.
After obtaining the MPA degree, John enrolled in the Political Science Department of the University of Chicago. His dissertation focuses on the evolution of Black Politics in Peru and Ecuador from 1980-2011. John has authored several papers and presentations in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. He serves as the Web Master for the Race, Ethnicity and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association. John was an adjunct instructor in the Department of History, Philosophy and Political Science at Chicago State University and a Preceptor in the University of Chicago Public Policy Studies Program. From 2010-2011, John served as a consultant to the Inter-American Development Bank and lead a key study on the status of Afro-Peruvian Civil Society.
In 2011 at the 20th World Methodist Conference in Durban, South Africa, he was elected to a five-year term as the Youth and Young Adult Coordinator of the World Methodist Council. In this role, he was responsible for facilitating youth and young adult initiatives for its 80 member denominations in the Methodist, Wesleyan, Holiness, and Uniting/United Church traditions.
John Thomas III is a lifelong member of St. John African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Nashville TN. He was awarded the 2000 Tennessee Conference Outstanding Young Adult Award (18-23) and has represented the Tennessee Annual Conference at the 2004, 2008 and 2016 General Conferences as well as at the 2001, 2007, 2009 and 2015 sessions of the Lay Biennial. He also represented the 13th Episcopal District (Tennessee and Kentucky) on the General Board of the African Methodist Episcopal Church from 2004-2012. John served as the Young Adult Representative of the Connectional Lay Organization from 2009-2013 and as a Women’s Missionary Society Sojourner to the Dominican Republic in 2002 and 2009. He was a Connectional Lay delegate to the General Conference in 2012 and served as an at-large member of the General Board from 2012-2016.
On July 11, 2016 John Thomas III was elected to serve as the 21st Editor of The Christian Recorder—the official organ of the 2.5 million member AME Church. He is the first layperson to serve in this role and the youngest elected General Officer in the history of the AME Church. The Christian Recorder is published by the AME Church Sunday School Union in Nashville, TN and is the oldest continuously published periodical by persons of African descent in the world. In continuous production since 1852, its readership encompasses 39 countries on five different continents.