Thomas Hopkinson Eliot was born 14 June 1907 in Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts to Samuel Atkins Eliot (1862-1950) and Frances S. Hopkinson and died 14 October 1991 Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts of unspecified causes.


He was born to a long line of those concerned with religion, politics and social justice.


His father Samuel Atkins Eliot II was the first president of the American Unitarian Association. His grandfather Charles William Eliot (1834-1926) was the reform-minded and progressive President of Harvard University. His great-grandfather was Samuel Atkins Eliot (1798-1862), US Congressman and Mayor of Boston.

Early Years

He attended Browne and Nichols School; was graduated from Harvard University in 1928, continued his studies at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University from 1928-1929 and was graduated from the law school at Harvard University in 1932. He first practiced law in Buffalo, New York after passing the bar in 1933.

Political Career

He was elected a Representative from Massachusetts, as a Democrat to the Seventy-seventh Congress (January 3, 1941-January 3, 1943) after one failed attempt in 1938. He would not win the nomination again. He was the chief draftsman of the Social Security Act.

Teaching Career

He followed in his grandfather's footsteps turning his attention to education following politics and in 1952 joined the faculty of Washington University in St. Louis, founded by his cousin William Greenleaf Eliot, as chairman of its political science department. He became the 12th chancellor in 1962 and headed the school in that position until his retirement in 1971. He said that colleges needed to be "citadels of freedom of inquiry and expression" and to resist both "anarchistic violence" on the left and "extremist reaction" on the right. As an author, in addition to many articles, he wrote a college textbook: Governing America: The Politics of a Free People. He continued to teach young children in his retirement at the co-educational school of Buckingham, Browne and Nichols from 1977-1985. (bio by: D C McJonathan-Swarm)




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