A Guide to the James P. Thomas, Sr. Papers, 1898, 1928
James P. Thomas, Sr. (1878-1948) was born in McKinney, Texas, to James Waller and Mary Smith Thomas. James Waller Thomas was the owner and editor of the McKinney Messenger, the first newspaper in the city. In 1898, the Spanish American War began, and at age 19, Thomas enlisted in the 2nd Texas Infantry Regiment, part of the 7th Army Corps, Camp Cuba Libre, Jacksonville, Florida. The 7th Army Corps was scheduled to invade and liberate Puerto Rico under the command of General Fitzhugh Lee, the nephew of Robert E. Lee, but the Spanish surrender ended the Corps’ mission.
Eager to serve his country during World War I, when Thomas was in his late 30s he volunteered for Officer’s Candidate School, but was discharged because the war ended before his class graduated. Likewise, during World War II, knowing he was too old for battle, he became a full time volunteer for the Office of Price Administration.
Thomas married Merle Pitts in 1926 and they lived in the Thomas family home in McKinney. He worked as a clerk and senior in charge of outgoing mail in the McKinney Post Office from 1902 until his retirement in 1939. Furthermore, from 1935 until his death in 1948, Thomas volunteered at Veterans Administration Hospitals assisting other veterans in securing medical treatment by filling out government forms and corresponding with United States Senators from Texas.
The James P. Thomas, Sr. Papers, 1898, 1928, consist of original letters, photographs, and printed materials documenting Thomas’ military career. The letters, from James Thomas to W. G. Thomas of McKinney, Texas, May 29, 1898, describe his experiences training for the Spanish American War. Thomas’ later wartime experiences are described in three other letters, July 16, 1898; July 28, 1898; and September 8, 1898. The photographs include 13 cabinet card photos reflecting Thomas’ service during the Spanish American War, including military camps and training scenes, and two snapshot photos from World War I. Furthermore, the papers contain two newspapers: the McKinney Daily Courier, September 2, 1898, including the text of a letter written by Thomas describing his experiences in the Spanish American War; and the McKinney Daily Courier-Gazette, March 16, 1928, including an article on James Waller Thomas, Collin County, Texas’ first newspaper editor and the father of James P. Thomas, Sr.
James P. Thomas, Sr. Papers, 1898, 1928, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Detailed Description of the Papers