Norman Thomas

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Norman Thomas attending a Debs Day Dinner. Second from the right, along with Sherman Whitehead, Mrs. Thomas, and Carol Rigby.

Norman Thomas was an American social worker, minister, author and longtime presidential candidate of the Socialist Party of America.

Thomas was born on November 20, 1884, in Marion, Ohio. As a young man, Thomas delivered newspapers for Warren G. Harding, a future president of the United States. Thomas attended college and graduated from Princeton University in 1905. While at Princeton, Thomas studied with Woodrow Wilson, another future president of the United States.

After graduating from Princeton, Thomas became a social worker in New York. He also studied to become a Presbyterian minister at the Union Theological Seminary. In 1911, he was ordained and accepted a position at the East Harlem Presbyterian Church in New York City. Thomas became interested in socialism and began to play a much more active role in social movements and in politics. Because of his pacifist views, Thomas opposed World War I and declared that the conflict was "immoral" and "senseless." In 1914, he helped to establish the Fellowship for Reconciliation, an organization that opposed war. In 1917, Thomas joined the National Civil Liberties Union to oppose the wartime measures of President Woodrow Wilson's administration. In 1920, Thomas was a founding member of a similar organization, the American Civil Liberties Union.

Thomas either founded or contributed articles to a number of magazines and newspapers. In 1918, he established the World Tomorrow. From 1921 to 1922, Thomas served as the associate-editor of The Nation. He also wrote articles for The Unemployed and a number of other journals. Over the course of his life, Thomas wrote several books, including Is Conscience a Crime? (1927), As I See It (1932), A Socialist Faith (1951), The Test of Freedom (1954), The Prerequisites of Peace (1959) and Socialism Re-examined (1963).

In 1924, Thomas, a member of the Socialist Party, was his party's candidate for Governor of New York. He lost, but he continued to seek political office. In 1928, 1932, 1936, 1940, 1944, and 1948, he ran for president as a Socialist. Thomas lost every election by a large number of votes. In every election, Thomas presented a socialist platform. He also encouraged Americans to become isolationists. Isolationists opposed American involvement in foreign affairs. Thomas helped establish the American First Committee, an organization that encouraged the United States government and American business to focus their activities on the United States rather than on other countries. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Thomas did support American entry into World War II. With the beginning of the Cold War in the late 1940s, Thomas denounced communism while encouraging the United States to return to isolationism.

Thomas died on December 19, 1968.

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