EMC Society Loses Two Founders

Leonard William Thomas Sr., 97, an electrical engineer whose expertise in radio helped solve electronic interference problems for the U.S. military during World War II, died January 31 of pneumonia and renal failure at Providence Hospital in the District of Columbia. Mr. Thomas, who lived in the District, was born in Birmingham, Alabama, as the eldest son of British immigrants from Cornwall. He was the 1920s equivalent of “a nerd,” said his daughter Sarah Ellen Sandel. He built radio sets as a youngster and discovered electrical engineering in high school. He graduated in 1931 from Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now Auburn University. With work difficult to come by in Depression-era Alabama, he got a job repairing Philco radios and then worked on installing radios in automobiles. After a few years, he joined Birmingham radio station WAPI, where, as an “operator,” he manned the controls and changed the 78-rpm recordings. In 1939, he moved to Washington to work as an engineer with CBS radio station WJSV, housed in a building at 13th and E streets NW. He was the engineer for radio appearances of a number of prominent people, including singer Kate Smith and talk-show host Arthur Godfrey. Godfrey used to live in Virginia, Mr. Thomas recalled in a 1993 oral history interview, “and he would fly low coming in his car every morning, and if he was not on time, I would just play a record until he got there.” Mr. Thomas left WJSV in 1942, he said, “because there was a war going on, and here I was with a degree in electrical engineering, entertaining people.” He became a radio engineer with the Bureau of Ships, a component of the Department of the Navy, specializing in transmitter and receiver interference problems. He developed technology to reduce and eliminate electronic interference in Defense Department equipment, which included small boats. By solving communications problems that the craft were having, Mr. Thomas contributed to the success of vital PT boat landings in North Africa. His suggestions were instrumental in the construction of an interference-free radar system for the military, and he helped write national standards for future communications devices. Mr. Thomas also resolved interference problems in the White House radio room when he discovered that fluorescent lighting from the kitchen was the culprit. After the war, he became the first U.S. representative to the International Special Committee on Radio Interference. In 1960, he joined the Defense Department at the Electromagnetic Compatibility Analysis Center in Annapolis. After retiring in 1970, he worked as a consulting engineer and was active with the Electromagnetic Compatibility Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Mr. Thomas wrote numerous technical papers. He was elected an IEEE Fellow and received the institute's Standards Medallion and the Laurence G. Cumming Award. He was a member of Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church in the District and served on the board and the buildings and grounds committee. He was also chairman of the committee that oversaw the renovation of the congregation's pipe organ. Mr. Thomas's wife, the former Vida May Savage, was a singer on a Birmingham radio program when the two met in 1934; he was the engineer for the program. She died in 1990. In addition to his daughter, of the District, survivors include two other children, Dorothy Thomas Morgan of Auburn, Alabama, and Leonard William Thomas Jr. of Warner Robins, Georgia; a brother; two sisters; two granddaughters; and four great-grandchildren.

John Joseph Renner, 87, an electrical engineer who owned and operated an Arlington County business focused on communications technology, died April 12 at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. He had multiple myeloma. After early work in the Washington area for Jansky & Bailey engineers and Atlantic Research Corp., Mr. Renner founded Advanced Technology Systems Inc. in 1969. During the next 20 years, his firm did consulting work for the three major broadcast networks and worked on the communications setup for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. Mr. Renner was a native of Dorchester, Massachusetts, and a 1941 electrical engineering graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served in the Army Signal Corps in the South Pacific during Word War II. His decorations included the Bronze Star. He spoke at electrical engineering conventions and contributed scholarly papers in the field. He was named a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, “For contributions in the application of systems engineering to telecommunications for government and industry.” He also was a founding member of the Association of Old Crows, a national organization that supports electronic warfare. He did fund-raising work for St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church and St. Ann's Catholic Church, both in Arlington. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus, the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Besides his home in Rehoboth Beach, he also was an Arlington resident. His wife of 43 years, Kathleen Donnelly Renner, died in 1992. Survivors include five children, John J. Renner II of Alexandria, Mary Beth Kurpiel of Bensenville, Illinois, Genie Herwig of Frankford, Delaware, and Kathleen Mirro and Rosalie Barnes, both of Arlington; a stepdaughter, Patricia Donnelly of Camden, South Carolina; a brother, Dr. William Renner of Baltimore; 15 grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren.
The above obituaries were published in the Washington Post. The obituary on Mr. Thomas was written by Joe Holley and appeared on February 7, 2007; Page B06. The obituary on Mr. Renner appeared on Monday, April 16, 2007; Page B07


Long Time EMC Society Member, Bob Brook, Dies in New York

Robert H. Brook, the EMC Society liaison to the IEEE Society on the Social Implications of Technology (SSIT), passed away recently. President of Brook Electromagnetics, he was the liaison for many years until the time of his death. In 2003, he received the EMC Society’s Honorary Life Member Award. He was an active member of the Long Island, New York EMC Chapter. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, children Eric, Carolyn and Elinor, and brother Howard.



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