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.