Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mathonihah Thomas (1872-1931)

   The first Welshman to profiled here on the site, Mathonihah Thomas found his political fame in Utah and was a two-time candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from that state. Very few sources are available online that mention this oddly named political figure, with the exception being a small write-up in the 1913 work History of the Bench and Bar of Utah, Volume I. This useful book also yielded a portrait of the wonderfully named Nephi United States Centennial Jensen (a Utah state legislator) profiled here back on February 7th!
   Mathonihah Thomas's story begins with his birth in the village of Aberdare, South Wales on July 20, 1872, the son of Jenkyn (1833-1896) and Joanna Brennan Thomas (1831-1917). Mathonihah attended elementary schools in Wales and in 1878 resettled in Utah with his family. He continued his education in the schools of Farmington and Salt Lake City and in September 1897 married Angeline E. Smith. Six sons were born to this couple and are listed as follows: David (1898-1966), Brennan (1901-1968), Mathonihah (1902-1962), Edwin (1904-1978), Phillip (died aged one in 1907) and Walter (born 1908).
  Shortly after his marriage, Thomas began attending the University of Michigan Law School and graduated from this institution in 1900 with his law degree. He was soon admitted to practice by the Michigan bar and after returning to Utah set up a law practice. 
  In 1904, Thomas won election to the Salt Lake City Board of Education and began a long career of active involvement in Utah educational matters. He served on this board until 1913 and in 1909 was elected as the President of the Utah Teacher's Association. An article featuring Thomas's election to this office was featured in a December 1909 edition of the Salt Lake Herald-Republican and has been posted below.

       This article on Thomas was featured in the December 30, 1909 Salt Lake Herald-Republican.

   In the same year that he was elected Teacher's Association President, Thomas was named as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Utah Agricultural College. He served as four-year tenure on this board and in 1912 became the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives from Utah. In this race, Thomas came out on the losing end, with victory going to Republican candidate Jacob Johnston (1847-1925.) Thomas mounted another campaign for Congress in 1920 but again was dealt a substantial loss, with a majority of 11,000 votes going to Republican candidate Elmer O. Leatherwood.
  After his two Congressional campaigns, little could be found on Mathonihah Thomas's life, and he is recorded as dying in Long Beach, California on July 29, 1931 at age 59. He is listed as being buried somewhere in Inglewood, California, although an exact cemetery name is unknown at the time of this writing. The portrait of Thomas shown at the beginning of his profile here was found in the 1913 work Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah.

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