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Albert Richard Thomas (April 12, 1898 – February 15, 1966) was a Democratic Congressman from Houston, Texas, for 29 years and was responsible for bringing the Johnson Space Center to Houston.

Albert Thomas
Albert Richard Thomas.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 8th district
In office
January 3, 1937 – February 15, 1966
Preceded by Joe H. Eagle
Succeeded by Lera Millard Thomas
Personal details
Born April 12, 1898
Nacogdoches, Texas
Died February 15, 1966(1966-02-15) (aged 67)
Washington, DC
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Lera Millard Thomas


Early lifeEdit

Thomas was born in Nacogdoches, Texas, on April 12, 1898, to Lonnie (Langston) and James Thomas.[1] He attended local schools, worked in his father’s store, and served as a Lieutenant in the United States Army during World War I before graduating from the Rice Institute and the University of Texas Law School. He married Lera Millard. Thomas was admitted to the bar in 1927, and he practiced law and served as Nacogdoches County Attorney before moving to Houston in 1930 to become Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas.[2]

Congressional careerEdit

When long-time congressman Joe H. Eagle did not seek reelection in 1936, so he could run for the United States Senate, Thomas sought and won the Democratic nomination, which was tantamount to election. In that primary, Thomas beat Houston Mayor Oscar F. Holcombe in what was something of an upset.[3] The Eighth District of Texas at that time comprised all of Harris County, which includes the state's largest city, Houston.

In Congress, Thomas was a protégé of Texas Senator (later President) Lyndon B. Johnson but maintained a generally conservative voting record. In 1949, he became chairman of the House subcommittee on independent office appropriations. He also served on the subcommittee on defense appropriations and on the joint committee on Texas House delegation. He was a typical Southern Democrat who through seniority rose to be the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's, subcommittee on defense. In that capacity, he was able to steer projects to Texas including supporting Johnson's proposal to build the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station. Thomas also served on the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy and was instrumental in securing the location of the United States National Aeronautics & Space Administration's Manned Spacecraft Center (later named after Lyndon Johnson) in Houston in 1961. Since its inception, Johnson Space Center has served as mission control for every U.S. manned space flight including Apollo 11, the first lunar landing. "Houston" became the first word addressed to earth from the moon, in reference to the Johnson Space Center mission control.[4]

President John F. Kennedy shares a moment with U.S. Rep. Albert Thomas at the Houston dinner honoring the congressman on November 21, 1963. Photo by Houston Chronicle
Thomas (with bow tie) at the swearing in of President Lyndon Baines Johnson

Thomas was a member of the Suite 8F Group, a group of influential businessmen that included his college roommate at Rice University, George R. Brown.[5] Brown's company Brown and Root donated the land on which the Johnson Space Center would be located to Rice University. Then-Vice-President Lyndon Johnson was chairman of the Space Council, and Thomas, a member of the NASA board, played leading roles in the eventual acceptance of Rice University's offer.

Thomas voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[6]

Appreciation dinner in 1963Edit

In 1963, Thomas was seriously considering not running for a fifteenth term. Local Democrats organized an appreciation dinner on November 21, 1963, with over 3200 attendees to persuade him to run for another term. The most visible attendees were President John F. Kennedy and Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson who both spoke of Thomas's leadership. Kennedy said, "Next month, when the United States of America fires the largest booster in the history of the world into space for the first time, giving us the lead, fires the largest, payroll -- payload -- into space, giving us the lead. " here the President paused a second and grinned. "It will be the largest payroll, too," he quipped. The crowd roared.[7] "And who should know that better than Houston. We put a little of it right in here." The President then resumed in a more serious vein, "But in any case, the United States next month will have a leadership in space which it wouldn't have without Albert Thomas. And so will this city."[8]

Thomas accompanied the Presidential party as it traveled to Dallas, where the next day President Kennedy was assassinated. He witnessed the swearing in of President Lyndon Baines Johnson on Air Force One.[9]

In 1964, Thomas was named Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

By the time of his death in Washington, D.C., on February 15, 1966, at the age of 67, Thomas ranked eleventh in seniority in the House. The voters of Harris County elected his wife Lera to complete his term. In the fall of 1967, downtown Houston's Albert Thomas Convention and Exhibit Center (renovated in the late 1990s as the Bayou Place entertainment and dining complex) was built and named in his honor.[1] He is interred in Houston National Cemetery.[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Houston History". Retrieved 22 January 2015. 
  2. ^ "Albert Thomas". Retrieved 22 January 2015. 
  3. ^ Transcript, Mrs. Albert (Lera) Thomas Oral History Interview I, 10/11/69, by David G. McComb, Internet Copy, LBJ Library. Archived 2007-07-14 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Chaikin, Andrew (1994). A Man on the Moon. New York: Penguin Books. 
  5. ^ Berger, Eric (September 14, 2013). "A worthy endeavor: How Albert Thomas won Houston NASA's flagship center". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved August 7, 2015. 
  6. ^ "H.R. 7152. CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964. ADOPTION OF A ... -- House Vote #182 -- Jul 2, 1964". Retrieved 2016-07-31. 
  7. ^ "November 21, 1963 - President John F. Kennedy's remarks at a Dinner Honoring Albert Thomas". YouTube. Retrieved 22 January 2015. 
  8. ^ "Remarks at Representative Albert Thomas dinner, Houston Coliseum, Texas, 21 November 1963". Retrieved 22 January 2015. 
  9. ^ Jones, Chris (September 16, 2013). "The Flight from Dallas". Esquire. Retrieved June 15, 2017. 
  10. ^ Albert Thomas at Find a Grave


External linksEdit

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Joe H. Eagle
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 8th congressional district

Succeeded by
Lera Millard Thomas