I have been going a little deeper down the John W. Thomason rabbit hole in recent weeks. This morning I finished The World of Col. John W. Thomason USMC by Martha Anne Turner and found it in depth and informative. The book is largely a sympathetic account of Thomason’s life. One interesting sub-theme is the book’s underlying whiff of Lost Causism. The biography was published in 1984 and contains some passages one would not see today. These things are fascinating in and of themselves beyond the subject matter. That’s not what brings me to Thomason here however.
One thing I did not know until reading the book is that he was a long-serving aid to Assistant Navy Secretary Henry L. Roosevelt. Henry L. was the fourth Roosevelt to hold that office, after Theodore, Franklin, and Ted. There was even a fifth if one counts Corinne’s son, Theodore Douglas Robinson. Henry L. was appointed by his cousin FDR in March 1933. It was an interesting moment in history. Military men like Henry L. Roosevelt, John Thomason and others had come up in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, fought in the Great War and then toiled away in anonymity in the interwar years. Like seemingly all the Roosevelts Henry had an enormous capacity for work. Thankfully in Thomason he had an adjutant who was up for the task.
There is an interesting scene in the book where the two men are meeting with President Roosevelt. Going by his letters home, one gathers that Thomason did not think much of FDR as president. The Democratic Party was a big tent in the 1930s, with urban Northeasterners like Franklin Roosevelt aligned with conservative Dixicrats such as his own vice president, Cactus Jack Garner. Thomason fit into the later category, though as a military man he kept his opinions to himself. It is interesting to note, however, the high regard Thomason had for Franklin Delano Roosevelt as assistant navy secretary during the Wilson Administration. It is an aspect of FDR’s career that we often give short shrift. He was an integral part of the Preparedness Movement and did much to keep the Navy afloat, especially in Wilson’s first term.
(image/University of Houston)