Hoosick Township Historical Society

William David Thomas 1880 - 1936

William David Thomas was born in Middle Granville on March 22, 1880. He was the son of David and Mary McKenzie Thomas. He attended the public schools and graduated from the Middle Granville High School. Mr. Thomas went to Union College and the Albany School of Pharmacy. He graduated in 1904 and accepted a job in Hoosick Falls as a pharmacist working for George A. Ross. He later went into partnership with C.F.W. Smith and ran the pharmacy by himself starting in 1920 under the name of Thomas Pharmacy.

Mr. Thomas was interested in civic affairs and became involved in politics. His friendly and outgoing personality made him very popular, and soon he became a Republican Committeeman for the First District of the Town of Hoosick. Although he was active in the National Republican Party, he was always at the local polls during elections, from early in the morning until the votes were counted. In 1917, Mr. Thomas ran for Town Clerk and served four two- year terms. When a vacancy occurred in the State Assembly in 1925, by the death of Arthur E. Cowee of Berlin, Mr. Thomas was appointed to the State Assembly. In 1927 he ran for County Treasurer and served for two three-year terms until 1933. In 1927, he was elected County Chairman of the Republican party even though he didn't want the position. He held this position from 1927-1934. Due to the death of James S. Parker of Salem, he ran in a special election for the U.S. Assembly seat from the 29th District. He was the only pharmacist in the 73rd Congress. Mr. Thomas was reelected to the 74th Congress and served from January 30, 1934 until his death on May 17, 1936.

Many friends warned him to take it easy because of his heart problem. He spent the entire summer of 1935 at his cottage at Hedges Lake as his heart problem became more serious. However, he continued working at a strenuous pace. On opening ceremonies of the 74th Congress the elevator taking him and others to the floor of Congress fell from the second floor to the basement. It took several hours to rescue the occupants. It was felt this led to his already serious medical problems. On January 25, he entered the U.S. Naval Hospital with heart pains. He was placed in an oxygen tent and his daughter, Lillian, was summoned. He rallied and was able to go home in May, 1936. Two weeks later, he became ill and died at his sisters house in Washington, DC on May 17, 1936. He was the eighth member of Congress to die during the 74th session.

Flags on the National Capitol in Washington flew at half staff. His body was sent home by train and lay in state at his home on Classic Street. His funeral was held at the Presbyterian Church on Church Street, Hoosick Falls. A delegation from Congress attended. All business of the Village and Town were ceased during the funeral. The service was conducted by Rev. Lewis H. Knight and included two favorite songs of "Bill" Thomas, "Hills of Home" and "I'm Going Home". Mrs. Elwin Bentley was the soloist. The church was filled with flowers and notables of the political, business and social world as well as "home folks". Mr. Thomas was buried in the Maplegrove Cemetery, Hoosick Falls. Tributes to the late Congressman arrived from all over the country.

Mr. Thomas held many positions during his lifetime. He was a director of the Permanent Savings and Loan Association and the Peoples First National Bank of Hoosick Falls. He was past Exalted Ruler of Hoosick Falls Lodge No. 178, B.P.O. Elks, and Past District Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler of B.P.O. Elks of the Northeastern New York District. He was prominent in affairs of the Masons.

Mr. Thomas was married on July 24, 1907 to Carolyn Haffner of Brooklyn, New York. They had one daughter, Lillian. Lillian graduated from Hoosick Falls High School in 1936 and was Valedictorian of her class. She went on to Vassar and Albany Teachers College graduating in 1941. She married Aubrey Brownell of Hoosick Falls. Mrs. Carolyn Thomas was the individual that persuaded Grandma Moses to display her paintings at the Thomas Pharmacy where her painting were discovered.

Philip Leonard
March 2002