Thornton grew up in San Antonio, and earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from Texas Southern University in the mid-1950s. She later earned her doctorate from the University of Houston in 1973. She served in many capacities during her long career at Prairie View A&M University, including the director of graduate mathematics program, head of the department of mathematics and director of the Undergraduate Research Institute.
She mentored thousands of students through her more than 40 years of teaching at Prairie View A&M University, was one of two African-American women featured in the Bullock Texas State History Museum Women Shaping Texas in the 20th Century special exhibition and was the first African-American to earn a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Houston.
"She was energetic, she was always involved," said her daughter Wanda Mott Russell. "She was community minded, and she believed in excellence. She was an all around educator, but also an all-around woman. She really was an example to many people, not just to me. She is going to be so missed by so many."
Funeral service for Dr. Thornton is set for 11:00 a.m. at the Windsor Village Methodist Church Kingdom Builder’s Center, 6011 Wet Orem Drive, Houston.
In lieu of flowers the Family has requested donations to: The Evelyn E. Thornton Legacy Endowment at Prairie View A&M University, P O Box 519/ MS 1200, Prairie View, TX 77446.
Thornton is survived by her daughter, her husband, her two sisters and grandchildren.