George Thomas, 1st Viscount Tonypandy

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Thomas George Thomas, 1st Viscount Tonypandy PC (29 January 1909 – 22 September 1997) was a British Labour Party politician and Speaker of the House of Commons. Born in Port Talbot, Wales, he initially worked as a teacher in both London and Cardiff. An MP from 1945 to 1983, he held office in Harold Wilson's 1964-1970 Labour administration, notably as Secretary of State for Wales from 1968 to 1970. As a junior minister at the Wales Office, he was one of the first on the scene of the Aberfan disaster in October 1966. In 1976 Thomas was elected Speaker of the House of Commons, in which role the first broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings brought him unprecedented public attention. He retired in 1983 and was elevated to the peerage as Viscount Tonypandy. He died unmarried in 1997.

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Early life and education

Thomas was born in Port Talbot, Wales, the second son of Zachariah Thomas, a Welsh speaking miner from Carmarthen, and Emma Jane Tilbury, daughter of a founder of the English Methodist Church in Tonypandy. He had two elder sisters, Ada May and Dolly, one elder brother Emrys and one younger brother Ivor.[1] His father became a heavy drinker and the family were happy when he joined up at the start of the First World War. They were less pleased when Emma had to take her marriage certificate to court to prove she was Zachariah's wife and not the woman in Kent to whom he had allocated his soldier allowance. He never returned to South Wales and died of tuberculosis in 1925.[2]

Thomas was raised by his mother in the village of Trealaw in South Wales, just across the river from the town of Tonypandy. All four of his siblings left school at age 13. His two sisters went into service, his elder brother went down the pit and his younger brother worked in a shop. This allowed George to extend his education, a good education at the time being the best means of escape from the valleys. He attended Trealaw Boys' School where he passed the scholarship examination for Tonypandy Higher Grade School, later promoted to Tonypandy Secondary Grammar School.[3] On leaving school Thomas became a pupil teacher, first in Trealaw and then in Fanshawe Crescent School, Dagenham, Essex, after which he did a two-year teacher-training course at University College, Southampton. He then worked as a teacher in both London and Cardiff.

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