Joseph J. Thomas, an advocate for diversity and a 43-year veteran of Bloomingdale’s, died at the age of 85 on Sunday at NYU Langone Hospital in New York.

Born April 26, 1938, in Opelousas, La., Thomas served in the army before joining Bloomingdale’s in 1965 at the height of the civil rights movement. Thomas worked for Bloomingdale’s for 43 years, serving as a buyer before rising to become the store’s operating vice president for diversity and community service.

Thomas was Bloomingdale’s first Black buyer and the company’s first Black corporate operating vice president, according to the family.