Excerpt on W. I. Thomas

Robert Morss Lovett

Another intimate friend of Manly's and of mine was William Isaac Thomas. He came to the university in a small administrative position, created for him by President Harper, to take his degree in sociology in a department of which he became the most distinguished member. Sociology in the last century seemed to be divided between the theorists, interested in a philosophy of society, and the philanthropists, interested in practical amelioration. Thomas turned the attention of his pupils to the actual phenomena of social life by case studies and statistics. He made sociology a science.

I came to know Thomas well on one long day in a summer quarter when he received news that one of his boys had been drowned at the resort in Michigan where his family was staying. There was no train until evening, and all day we sat together, talking of this and that, but always his mind returned to the question—which? It was not Bill, the oldest, because Bill could always take care of himself. It was not Ed, because Ed was too cautious to be caught in a situation he couldn't handle. It could not be the youngest boy because the others would never have given him up. It was the last.

( 99) caught in a current so swift that the older boys had been helpless.


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