October 14, 2016, BY Sherri Kimmel

Norman Thomas, Class of 1905, was often lauded as "this country's most valued dissenter," as he was described in a Nov. 21, 1964, New York Times article commemorating his 80th birthday. Years earlier, The Washington Post dubbed him "America's conscience." The Post went on to say: "There is hardly a cause involving compassion for the luckless or a decent respect for minority rights in which this great nonconformist has not played a part. He has fought hard, and always cleanly. And he will continue, we may be sure, to reproach his country for not being as good as it might and could. More power to his heart and tongue."

A thick file of Thomas-related clippings in Bucknell's archives attests to the regard in which the University held him. Tucked among articles by and about Thomas from the nation's leading news magazines and newspapers are personal notes he sent to the University — a "season's greetings" card date stamped Nov. 30, 1966, two years before he died, thanking Bucknell for sending him birthday greetings (he was born Nov. 20, 1884). In another letter sent to Bucknell and typed on his personal stationary, Thomas apologized for sending a form letter rather than a personal response to the Christmas and birthday cards sent from Bucknell. He cited blindness as his reason.

He concluded: "I take this way of thanking you for cards, news of your families, and other things which remind me of your friendship. It is friendship like yours which makes life worthwhile.

"I need hardly say how much I wish you a Happy New Year. For all of us I think that depends on our ability to obtain peace in Vietnam and advance it throughout the world."

To learn more about Thomas, explore the items culled from his file in the Bucknell University Special Collections/University Archives.

View the book jacket for The Test of Freedom.

View the book jacket for The Test of Freedom.

From the Archives: Norman Thomas

Newspaper clippings from the late 1920s from The Bucknellian and other newspapers regarding visits to campus and Thomas' first run for the U.S. presidency.

"Great Challenge of the Dissenter" by Norman Thomas (The New York Times Magazine, Nov. 15, 1959)

Book jacket from Thomas' The Test of Freedom: The State of Liberty under the Twin Attacks called McCarthyism and Communism, published by Norton in 1964.

Letter sent by Thomas to Bucknell in December 1965.

"The Dean of Protest" by Sylvia Wright (Life magazine, Jan. 14, 1966)

Season's Greetings card sent by Thomas to Bucknell in November 1966.

"A Legacy for the Young from Norman Thomas" (Look magazine in 1969 published this excerpt from Thomas' last book, The Choices, which came out shortly after his death in December 1968.)

Biographies about Thomas

  • Norman Thomas: The Great Dissenter, Raymond F. Gregory, 2008
  • Norman Thomas: The Last Idealist, W.A. Swanberg, 1976
  • Norman Thomas, James C. Durham, 1974
  • Leader at Large: The Long Fight of Norman Thomas, Charles Gorham, 1970
  • Pacifists Progress: Norman Thomas and the Decline of American Socialism, Bernard Johnpoll, 1970
  • Norman Thomas: Respectable Rebel, Murray Seidler, 1967
  • Norman Thomas: A Biography, Harry Fleischmann, 1964

See more early news clippings.

See more early news clippings.

Politics in the Fall 2016 issue of Bucknell Magazine


Beyond Belief

Illustration by Nancy Harrison

Is religion still a driver in electoral outcomes? Though its influence is in decline overall, for some alumni, students, faculty and staff, faith is still a critical determinant in their voting behavior.

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Voting for Inclusion

Ignorance about different faiths can lead people to paint all religions with which they are unfamiliar with a broad brush, as "the other," says the Rev. John Colatch, university chaplain and director of religious life. Manisha Chase '16, one of Bucknell’s former religious leaders, observed such stigmatizing as a Sikh.

Read More

Inside the Beltway

Though they chart different orbits in the national political theater, David Hawkings '82, Katie Malague '94 and Brad Walp '01 have a Washington, D.C., vantage point in common.

Read More

Seeing the True Islam

Kabir Uddin '19; photo by Timothy Sofranko

"As a Muslim born in America, I find myself in a very tough spot. This idea that being innately American and being Muslim are two mutually exclusive things is a tough pill for me to swallow."

Read Kabir's essay
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