Mr. Edward W. "Willis" Thomas

By Clara Nell Morisette
Camden, Tennessee

Hi to all you Tribune readers. I want to thank those who called, sent cards, gifts, phone calls, and took me out to dinner for my birthday.

When I worked at Smitty's Cafe, located on the north side of the square, I had the privilege of meeting a very sweet and loving couple, Mr. and Mrs. Edward W. Thomas. They would come in after rush hour and after they are I would visit with them for awhile. With what I can remember and some information that Tom Henderson write in the chronicle when I worked for the, I will write a store on....

Mr. Edward W. "Willis" Thomas

Edward Thomas

Edward W. Thomas was born February, 1887, to Dorsey B. and Lucy Jane Robertson Thomas, and was the grandson of Williamson Thomas. He was born in Humphreys County. He said that the first time he saw Benton County, hr rode in on a mule in 1891. He could remember on the west side of the square the jockey yards where horses and mules were standing. On the east side was a livery stable, and all around the square horses, mule teams, buggies, and wagons were hitched, along with men who might or might not have had a drink or two from three livery saloons.

These men would bargain, swap, buy and sell horses and mules or anything they felt like trading. After telling this he would grin and say, a lot has changed around this square since I first saw it from the back of my mule."

Mr. Thomas was a graduate of Cumberland University Law School and practiced law before going to Washington. He held important positions in the Tennessee State Senate and the U.S. Senate in 1912, before he came back to Camden where for 24 years he was Clerk and Master of Chancery Court.

Mr. Thomas returned to Waverly in 1913 and married Lucille Rogers. In telling about this, he would look at her and smile, and add, "We spend a three-year honeymoon in the Nation's Capital." He said Washington was alright but he didn't like living in a big city.

Mr. Thomas' prime duty was attending State Senate sessions to list nominees for Postmastership. Sometimes there would be 400 applications for Postmastership to card and index for President Wilson's secretary.

In 1907 and until he died in 1917 he was still in politics. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas subscribed to three daily newspapers and eleven magazines. His saying was, "Live right and vote the Democrat ticket, that's how come me to still be living.

Mr. Thomas came by his political heritate cheritagehis grandfather Williamson Thomas had five brothers in the Revolutionary War. In Williamson County on the edge of Nashville the log cabin that Williamson Thomas built was still standing in 1968. Mr. Williamson had none sons and three daughters, included a speaker of the State Senate, a Tennessee State treasurer, the fighting Parson of the Confederate Army, four teachers, two bankers, a judge, a doctor, and the wife of a state legislator. Besides all this most of the men were carpenters, farmers, tanners, and merchants.

Mr. Edward W. Thomas' father Dorsey Brown Thomas was speaker for the Senate, twice a gubernational candidate and appointed by then president Andrew Jackson to a high government post. He also owned vast tracts of land in Tennessee (mostly) in Humphreys County and built race tracks. He sold a race track for "200 peanuts a year." Mr. Edward helped build one track when he was 15 years old using a team of mules, a plow, and a dump scoop. In 1986, Waverly High School was sitting on the site where the horses use to run when the track was finished.

Edward had two brothers who were in the state legislature, B.R. Thomas of Humphreys County and Dorsey (Doss) B. Thomas, a senator from Benton County.

Mr. and Mrs. Edward lived in Obin County for several years before moving to Benton County in 1929. They resided on a farm which had been in the Thomas family for years. A portion of the farm is now a part of Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park.

When I knew Edward and Doss, Doss lived on the farm at N.B.F.S.P. and on July 4th Doss and Tilfolrd Pafford would hold a Fourth of July celebration at "Thomas Grove." Edward lived at 137 Chestnut Ave.

In April 1940, Mr. Edward was appointed Clerk and Master of the Chancery Court and held this position until his death. This work involved attending Chancery Court, a court in equity, twice a year but continuing the court minutes all year, entering decrees and court orders, filling delinquent tax bills and maintaining public records of this office. Mrs. Thomas worked in the office with her husband.

Asked if they were going to retire, he would smile and say, "What's the use of retiring as long as we can work? It's better to do something than retire and die quick, by not having nothing to do but mope around." They said they "watched T.V., read, went to Boy Scout banquets and were active in Masonic and Eastern Star activities." Mr. Edward, with eyes twinkling and that sweet smile, would say, "we don't fuss much, you know why?" He would point to his ears and say "I just pull these hearing things out."

Mr. and Mrs. Edward Thomas had three children; Edward Jr., Pherrell, and Nancy. Nancy married Melvin Max King, and is the only child living.

I can still see Mr. and Mrs. Edward Thomas shuffling along, kind of bent with age, holding hands, with their little white hats reading "Vote for John J. Hooker for governor," or walking form the courthouse to the restaurant. One of their grandsons, Max King, lived on Washington St. and had a dog called Rennie. The dog would leave his house, go to 137, and walk Mrs. Thomas to work. When they came to the restaurant Rennie would walk with them and lay outside.

I quit the restaurant the first of May in 1971. Mr. Thomas passed away May 15, 1971. Mrs. Thomas passed away February 15, 1972. They are buried in the Camden City Cemetery.

Thought for the week:

Love looks past inperfection with eyes that are blind.


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Brian Nichols

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