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Adapted from "Charles Sparks Thomas, Secretary of the Navy," [biography, dated 19 January 1961] in Modern Biographical Files collection,  Navy Department Library.

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  • World War II 1939-1945
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Charles Sparks Thomas

28 September 1897 - 17 October 1983

Portrait of Secretary of the Navy Charles Sparks Thomas

PDF Version [694KB]

Son of Charles Rogers and Della (Rouse) Thomas, Charles Sparks Thomas, was born in Independence, Missouri, on 28 September 1897, but in 1911 became a resident of California.  He attended the University of California, at Berkeley, and Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, leaving the latter during World War I to enter the Aviation Branch of the US Naval Reserve Force.

At the conclusion of his active service in 1919, Mr. Thomas joined the investment house of George H. Burr Company in Los Angeles, California, and in 1925 became a partner and Vice President of the firm, in charge of its affairs in Southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico. He left that company in 1932 to be Vice President and General Manager of Foreman and Clark, a chain of men's retail clothing store. Five years later he was made President, a position he held until his appointment as Under Secretary of the Navy.

After the outbreak of World War II, he was appointed special assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air, Mr. Artemus L. Gates, and he later served as an assistant to Mr. James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy at that time. The procurement of aircraft his primary concern, he also set up the Navy's Inventory and Purchasing Control Program and the first Contract Negotiation Section in the Navy Department. 

For his outstanding wartime service, Mr. Thomas received the Presidential Medal for Merit and the Distinguished Civilian Service Award. 

Later Mr. Thomas became Secretary of the Navy on 3 May 1954, when he was sworn into office to succeed Mr. Robert B. Anderson. He previously served as Under Secretary of the Navy, 9 February to 26 July 1953, and as Assistant Secretary of Defense (Supply and Logistics), 28 July 1953 to 3 May 1954. He served as Secretary of the Navy until 1 April 1957. He was presented the Army Exceptional Civilian Service Award by the Secretary of the Army at a ceremony in the Pentagon on 26 March 1957. Text of the citation accompanying the award follows:

"As Secretary of the Navy since 1954, he was rendered distinguished service to America during a perilous period of tremendous change and   challenge, contributing immeasurably to the strength and unity of the Armed Forces of the United States, and thereby to the security of the Nation. His exemplary spirit of warm and friendly cooperation with the Department of the Army in all matters of joint concern, his mature judgment, farseeing vision, inspired leadership, and sterling attributes of mind and character have earned him the profound respect and high esteem of all his associates, and further enriched the splendid heritage of the Naval Service." 

Mr. Thomas has been very active in civic affairs in Los Angeles and on the West Coast.  Past President of the Navy League in the Eleventh   Region, he was an airport commissioner in Los Angeles, and has served as Vice President of the Los Angeles, and has served as Vice  President of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. He has also been active in church and hospital work there.  Since 11 August 1960, he has been President of the 93000-acre Irvine Ranch in Southern California.

Previous to his first appointment to the Navy Department, he held directorships in the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Byron-Jackson  Company, Pacific Finance Corporation, and the Broadway-Hale Department Stores.

He died 17 October 1983.


Published: Wed Mar 06 11:14:30 EST 2019