L. E. "Tommy" Thomas

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Luther E. "Tommy" Thomas

Thomas as a young Marine

Chairman of the
Florida Republican Party
In office

Born July 7, 1925
Woodhull in Steuben County

in Upstate New York

Died September 17, 1996

(aged 71)

Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park
in Panama City
Spouse(s) Virginia Scott Thomas[1]
Children Including:

Carolyn T. Cramer

Residence Panama City, Florida
Occupation Automobile dealer

Military Service
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Rank Turret gunner
Battles/wars Pacific Theater of Operations in World War II
Awards Purple Heart and five Air Medals

Luther E. Thomas, known as L. E. "Tommy" Thomas (July 7, 1925 – September 17, 1996), was a businessman from Panama City who was the Florida state Republican Party chairman from 1970 to 1974. In 1976, 1980, and 1984, he managed the presidential campaigns in Florida of Ronald W. Reagan of California, a conservative who in his first race lost the presidential nomination, to Gerald Ford, a Moderate Republican from Michigan. But Reagan rebounded to win in 1980 and 1984.

You'd better stand for something ... or you'll fall for anything, the favorite saying of Tommy Thomas.

Born in rural Woodhull in Steuben County in upstate New York near the larger city of Corning. Thomas joined the United States Marine Corps on his 17th birthday in 1942. He was a gunner in the Pacific Theater of Operations in World War II, in which capacity he was awarded five Air Medals and received the Purple Heart medal. After his military service, Thomas moved to Birmingham,Alabama, where he worked for a finance company and became the manager at the age of twenty-five. In 1965, at the age of forty, he moved to Panama City in Bay County to begin his career in the automobile business, specifically Chevrolet. When he retired, he owned and operated five dealerships in Alabama and Florida.[2]

Thomas was also a humanitarian. He served as a director of the Salvation Army and established the "Tommy" Thomas Family Services Center in Panama City. He was a 33rd degree Mason, a Paul Harris fellow of Rotary International, and a member of numerous civic and community organizations. Thomas served on many state boards including the Methodist Children's Home in Enterprise, Florida. One of his last contributions was the still-functioning Mathison Retirement Center, dedicated in September 1996.[2] American Legion Post 37 tin Southport, Florida, is named for Thomas.[3]

When he resided in Alabama, Thomas went to the voter registrar's office and indicated that he was a Republican. The office, however, convinced him that he must register as a Democrat if he were wished to have a voice in state politics, then fully dominated by Democrats, often with no Republican opposition. After moving to Panama City, he was elected Florida Republican chairman and served in that capacity from 1970 to 1974. He was the only living American to have cast Electoral College votes for four different Republican presidential candidates.[2]

Thomas was married until his death to the former Virginia Scott (1921-2006). Their daughter, Carolyn T. Cramer, married William Cato Cramer, Jr (born 1952), the son of William C. Cramer, Sr., Florida's first Republican U.S. Representative from 1955 to 1971. When Thomas became party chairman, Cramer was relinquishing his House seat to run as the Republican nominee for the United States Senate, only to be defeated by the Democrat Lawton Chiles. Cramer, Jr., and Carolyn Thomas were both at the Republican National Convention in 1972 in Miami Beach., began dating in 1974, and married in 1975. Cramer left his law practice to join his father-in-law's dealership and became a major car dealer in his own name.[4] Thomas died in Panama City, Florida, at the age of seventy-one and was interred with full military honors and Masonic rites at the Garden of Prayer section at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Panama City. Thomas was a "local legend ... who is remembered for "his patriotism, giving heart, leadership, and commercial success."

The junior Cramer noted that "politics was my father’s profession, and it was Tommy’s passion. Carolyn and I came from different viewpoints. It was a mutual agreement not to run for public office. There are a lot of other ways to contribute to a community."[4]


  1. Virginia Thomas (Scott) (Panama City), mylife.com, accessed March 16, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Luther E. “Tommy” Thomas (1925-1996) , findagrave.com, accessed March 16, 2021.
  3. Post 375 Southport, Florida - Namesake L.E. "Tommy" Thomas | The American Legion Centennial Celebration, accessed March 16, 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Bill Cramer and Family - 50 Years of Dedication to Business and Community - Panama City Living, accessed March 16, 2021.