By Napoleon F. Kingcade
He wore jersey number 15. His name was James “Pee Wee” Thomas and he played two years for the number one nationally ranked 1977 West Philadelphia Speedboys.
Two Saturdays ago, on February 21, his own cousin, 25-year-old Amyr McClenton, shot and killed the 54-year old James “Pee Wee” Thomas after the two got into a heated argument over the ownership of his mother’s home in South Philadelphia.
According of Police Officer Leelonia Palmiero of Police Public Affairs, James Thomas was shot by his cousin at 11:40 AM on February 21. He was rushed to Presbyterian Hospital where he died at 2:07 p.m.
Today, Philadelphia Police and homicide detectives are still searching for Amyr McClenton who is still on the run for the murder of his cousin.
According to several sources, the former Speedboys guard was shot to death when he refused to give him any more money towards his mother’s house.
The house was passed down to Thomas after his mother passed away a few years ago.
Unfortunately, Thomas had gotten into some bad trouble on the streets and he was sent away to prison for several years.
While he was in jail, his cousin took ownership of the house, but failed to pay the property taxes.
James Thomas was released from prison, last June, two days before the 1977 Speedboys were honored with a big celebration at West Philadelphia High School.
“I remember seeing him at our Big celebration and I gave him a big hug and we laughed,” said Joe Garrett, a member on the 1977 Speedboys team. “I was so glad to see him. He told me he had just got out of prison and that he just heard details about our big celebration on the radio. I was just happy to see him. I wasn’t concern about why he went to prison. I was just glad he made it to our celebration.”
Joe Garrett said James Thomas was a big part of the Speedboys’ team, a player who came off the bench and set the basketball court on fire.
“He was a brave and high energy type of player,” said Garrett. “Thomas gave you real hustle on the court. Whatever was needed to be done for the team, Pee-Wee would go out on the court and do it. He was a good player and an unselfish player.
“He loved basketball and he loved the idea of being part of something great. He was a player who was very committed to the Speedboys team.”
Gene Banks, the team’s top player and an All-American said “Pee-Wee was a South Philly-style player,” said Banks. “He was gritty and very strong. He was a no-nonsense type of player who would always come at you.
“Pee-Wee would always take the challenge. He was a South Philly player who wasn’t scared of anybody.”
Banks said he feels real sad that he didn’t get a chance to get Thomas started in some major projects.
Thomas played two seasons for the Speedboys and he played some years in college.
When Thomas caught up with the Speedboys at the team’s big celebration, last June, he looked real happy and seemed to be glad to see his high school teammates once again.
Meantime funeral services for Thomas is scheduled for next Saturday, March 14, at Mitchell Funeral Home, located at 20th and Reed Street.
Gene Banks said his biggest wish is for the entire Speedboys team to show up at Thomas’ funeral and pay their last respects
Amyr Kevi McClenton has been on the run since he allegedly murdered his cousin, James Thomas on February 21. Police have placed his picture on their Most Wanted List.
This is not the first time McClenton has been in trouble.
Officer Palmiero said Amyr McClenton was once arrested a few years ago for the use of an illegal firearm.
If you know his whereabouts, do not approach him, call 911 or submit an anonymous tip at 215-686-TIPS (8477).