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Elbert D. Thomas

Elbert D. Thomas
United States Senator
from Utah
In office
March 4, 1933 – January 3, 1951
Preceded by Reed Smoot
Succeeded by Wallace F. Bennett
Personal details
Born Elbert Duncan Thomas
(1883-06-17)June 17, 1883
Salt Lake City, Utah
Died February 11, 1953(1953-02-11) (aged 69)
Honolulu, Hawaii
Resting place Salt Lake City Cemetery
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) 1) Edna Harker (deceased)
2) Ethel Evans (his death)
Children 3
Alma mater University of Utah
University of California, Berkeley
Religion The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)

Elbert Duncan Thomas (June 17, 1883 – February 11, 1953) was a Democratic Party politician from Utah. He represented Utah in the United States Senate from 1933 until 1951.


  • Biography 1
  • Church service 2
  • Political office 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Elbert Duncan Thomas was born in Salt Lake City, Utah on June 17, 1883 to Caroline Stockdale and Richard Kendall Thomas. He was the fifth of twelve children. His parents loved the arts, especially the theater. They built the first Children's Playhouse west of the Mississippi River in a barn on their property, which they named the Barnacle. Elbert was involved in many plays held for the public in the Barnacle. His father was involved in local government and held conventions and political rallies at the Barnacle. His family later moved to a home across from what is now the Conference Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). This home is on the National Historical Landmark Registry. While an undergraduate student at the University of Utah, Thomas helped found the Amici Fidissimi Society in 1902.[1] The AF Society was a men's fraternal organization which later affiliated with Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, an international college fraternity, in 1914, becoming the Utah Alpha Chapter of the Fraternity. Elbert was the first initiate into Phi Delta Theta at the University of Utah.

Thomas married Edna Harker on June 25, 1907 in the Salt Lake Temple and they had three daughters together. Edna died in 1942, and Elbert later married Ethel Evans in 1946 in the Salt Lake Temple.

Church service

Thomas served a mission to Japan for the LDS Church with his first wife, from 1907 to 1912. He was one of the first LDS missionaries sent to Japan, and his first daughter, Chiyo, was born there. Elbert developed a deep love for the Japanese people and learned to speak Japanese fluently. He was the author of Sukui No Michi, the Japanese translation of the Mormon tract Way of Salvation. For part of his five-year mission, Thomas was the president of the Japanese Mission. On his return from Japan, he became a Professor of Political Science and History at the University of Utah (where he had received his B.A. in 1906). He taught Latin, Greek and Japanese culture, as well as being a Political Science and History professor and eventually an Administrator on the Board of Regents at the University of Utah for many years.

Political office

Thomas was first elected to the Senate as a Democrat in 1932, defeating Republican Reed Smoot. He served on the Committee on Education and Labor (of which he was the Chairman), the Committee on Military Affairs, the Mines and Mining Committee, and the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare.

In April 1943 a confidential analysis of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by British scholar Isaiah Berlin for the British Foreign Office succinctly characterized Thomas as:

a Mormon ex-missionary, whose work was mostly done in the Far East. He speaks Japanese fluently, and his attitudes towards post-war problems is coloured principally by his Far Eastern views which are summed up in his statement that "the days of the white man's domination are over and the British Empire is almost certain to be dissolved in that part of the world." He is an out and out internationalist and interventionist, who has voted with the Administration on all foreign measures. He is essentially a free trader but, nevertheless, occasionally votes with the Farm Bloc which is powerful in the agricultural State which he represents. He is an ardent champion of the Jewish army scheme.[2]

Thomas served three terms before being defeated for reelection by Wallace F. Bennett in 1950. In 1951, he was appointed High Commissioner over the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Elbert died in Honolulu, Hawaii Territory on February 11, 1953. He was buried in the Thomas family plot in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.


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External links

United States Senate
Preceded by
Reed Smoot
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Utah
Served alongside: William H. King, Abe Murdock, Arthur V. Watkins
Succeeded by
Wallace F. Bennett
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