Norman Thomas

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Norman Thomas (1884-1968) Graduate of Princeton, Presbyterian minister Norman Thomas became a socialist and a pacifist at the age of 33, as a result of a long and gradual process. Already involved in social justice and political work in New York, Norman Thomas became America's First Socialist, continually advancing the causes of social justice. An inherently public man, his six presidential campaigns and five other attempts at public office were almost incidental to his lifetime of work in civil rights, labor, and peace groups, including the ACLU, NAACP, CORE and SANE. In his later years, Norman Thomas was often called America's Conscience, due to his stirring love of his country and its people. In a famous speech on the steps of the Capitol Building in 1968 Thomas proclaimed, "I come to cleanse the American Flag, not to burn it"[1].

Wife's money

Although Norman Thomas did raise some money through speaking and writing (which he usually gave back to the Socialist Party), what largely enabled him to be a full-time Socialist activist was his wife’s inheritance "not something with which he was totally comfortable".[2]

ACLU Member

As at Feb. 8, 1946, Norman Thomas served on the Board of Directors for the American Civil Liberties Union.[3]

Socialist Debs award

Every year since the mid 1960s the Indiana based Eugene V. Debs Foundation holds Eugene Debs Award Banquet in Terre Haute, to honor an approved social or labor activist. The 1966 honoree, was Norman Thomas.[4]


  2. Dem. Left, Fall 2000
  3. Letter from Ernie Adamson, Chief Counsel, ACLU to Hon. Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., Feb. 8, 1946
  4. Eugene V. Debs Foundation homepage, accessed march 14, 2011