Thomas B Wilson
Elected to the upper house in 1940, Bradford Republican Thomas B. Wilson was born in Tidioute, Warren County on September 12, 1877. The son of John S. and Elizabeth Wilson, the senator’s parents moved the two-year-old to Bradford, McKean County, where he later graduated from Bradford High School (1896) and studied law under attorneys Rufus Stone and Lester H. Simens. He entered Dickinson School of Law, matriculated in 1903, and married the former Stella Celestia shortly thereafter. Wilson joined the McKean County Bar Association on June 15, 1903, receiving an appointment as a bankruptcy referee for the county court. Embarking on a 35-year political career, Wilson served as McKean’s district attorney from 1912 to 1920, preceding his election to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1924. He returned five successive terms, 1926 through 1936, before staging a successful 1940 campaign for the state Senate. During a four-year term, Senator Wilson became indispensable to Republican leadership, particularly helpful toward the pro tem’s quest to hold the line on taxes, promote a wartime legislative agenda, and eradicate all legislative vestiges of the Little New Deal. He championed the Civil Service Law, the municipal borrowing cap amendment, the “Rotten Eggs Bill,” the “Milk Control Bill,” and Pennsylvania’s “War Baby Bill.” He chaired the Judiciary General and Labor-Industry committees and received appointments to Welfare, State Government, Public Utilities, Aeronautics, Education, Highways, and Elections. Senator Wilson retired from the upper house in 1945 due to poor health, succeeded by future pro tem James Berger. The senator returned to Bradford, devoting his remaining years to a law partnership, shared with John A. Fitzgibbon. Wilson belonged to the First United Presbyterian Church, the Bradford Elks Lodge, and several Masonic bodies. Wilson died in Bradford at his Congress Street home on January 25, 1960. After Tom’s brief experience as acting president pro tempore, a 1943 amendment to the recess-vacancy rule dropped Governor Sproul’s 1919 provision requiring the Judiciary General chair’s succession to the pro tem position, bestowing the honor on the majority floor leader. The Senate now officially recognized majority and minority floor leaders as formal, paid officers. Other rules changes included the termination, after 152 years, of printing separate House and Senate Journals, clerks recording the proceedings of both in the Legislative Journal.