Horace Thomas in his suit, buttons and orange peace necklace.
Horace Thomas. Photo by Carolyn Stein.

Horace Thomas, 76, is a big fan of buttons. 

“A woman came up to me once and said that she doesn’t like my buttons. She wanted me to take off my Ukraine button because I’m not Ukrainian. But I like wearing buttons,” he said. 

“There’s a lot of anti-button people around,” he continued. “A woman one time told me I was going to hell for wearing buttons. But I’ve never seen a story in the Bible that says anyone was sent to hell for wearing a button.”

Thomas sported a total of 10 buttons, all of which were pinned to his gray coat. Among those in his collection: a “Black Lives Matter” button, a “more love” button and an “I love Greta Thunberg” button. 

“So many people don’t like her, but why?” Thomas wonders. He immediately answers his own question: “It’s because she protects the Earth. That’s why.”

So where does Thomas’ interest in buttons come from?

“I’m a radical,” he said. And what better way to express his political views than with buttons? 

“I have so many buttons from back in the day,” he observed. They include buttons from anti-war protests, Civil Rights movement protests, Black Panther Party protests. 

“I used to be a supporter for Angela Davis. I saw her and her sister a few times. I was grateful to meet them because they were standing up for a cause,” Thomas said. 

More recently, Thomas has participated in demonstrations for women’s rights, for Black Lives Matter and Ukraine.

His political and social activism comes not only from a love for people, but also from a place of spirituality–as suggested by his “Cosmos Lives Matter” button. “I care about all people in the universe, all people in the cosmos. People up there matter too,” Thomas said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re angels or if they’re aliens. They matter.”

Thomas was born in Saint James, Louisiana, a small, rural town an hour outside of New Orleans. He came to San Francisco in 1968 and lived with his aunt and uncle in the Fillmore District. That same year, he participated in his first protest, against the war in Vietnam. It was one of those classic ‘60’s protests where hippies and politicos flooded the streets of San Francisco. (In addition to his buttons, Thomas wears a  plastic, orange peace necklace, a relic of those times.)  

Thomas has lived in various neighborhoods since moving to the city 54 years ago, but the Mission remains his favorite. Almost every afternoon, you can find him sitting on a bench in the middle of Dolores Park. 

And you never know just what buttons he’ll be wearing that day.

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Intern reporter. Carolyn grew up in Los Angeles. She previously served as a desk editor for her college newspaper The Stanford Daily. When she's not reporting, you can find her going on an unnecessarily long walk.

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  1. Horace is a legend, I have seen him out and about in the Mission for over 30 years. He is the kind of person that SF used to have a lot of back in the day. His presence is a reminder of what citizens of this great town could achieve. Long live Horace!

  2. . . . seems like I’ve seen him walking the pavement, placing fliers, for over twenty years.
    Wasn’t his old hat a bit more Chico Marx?

  3. I always love seeing Horace in the neighborhood, and the fact that he’s seen my kids grow up here.