Elbert D. Thomas

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Elbert D. Thomas was a United States Senator from Utah. He served from 1933 until 1951.

He was born on June 17, 1883, in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory. As a child he participated in his parents’ children’s playhouse theater called the Barnacle. His father moved the family to a home located adjacent to the current Conference Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The home, Gibbs-Thomas House, is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Thomas attended the University of Utah and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1906. He became a professor of political science and history at the University of Utah and taught Latin, Greek, and Japanese culture. He eventually became an administrator on the Board of Regents at the University of Utah.

Thomas was elected to the Senate in 1932, defeating Reed Smoot. He was defeated after three terms by Wallace F. Bennett. He made efforts to promote U.S. rescue of Jewish refugees from the Holocaust. During the Holocaust, Sen. Thomas, a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ, championed a Senate resolution that put pressure on President Roosevelt to establish the War Refugee Board.  He was a major sponsor of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, the Wages and Hours Act of 1938, the Nurses Education bill, and the G.I. Bill of Rights. Prior to World War II, Thomas was a leading interventionist and supporter of lend-lease. After he left the Senate, Thomas became the first civilian High Commissioner of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.[1]   

Thomas was among twelve nominated at the 1944 Democratic National Convention to serve as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s running mate in the presidential election that year.

He married Edna Harker in 1907 in the Salt Lake Temple and they had three daughters. They served a mission to Japan together from 1907 to 1912. He learned to speak Japanese fluently. He translated the gospel tract Way of Salvation (Sukui No Michi)

After Edna’s death in 1942, he married Ethel Evans in 1946 in the Salt Lake Temple. He died in Honolulu, Hawaii Territory on February 11, 1953.