William Widgery Thomas Jr., benefactor of the Thomas Memorial Library and the son of Elizabeth Goddard Thomas and W.W. Thomas Sr., was born in Portland, Maine on August 26, 1839. During the winter of 1857, while a student at Bowdoin College, he taught at District School #8 in the Spurwink Section of Cape Elizabeth. This school building was later to become the original Thomas Memorial Library.
After graduating from Bowdoin in 1860, Thomas became a United States Bearer of Dispatches and later served as Vice Consul-General at Constantinople and Acting Consul at Moldavic, Sweden.
He completed legal studies at Harvard, was admitted to the Maine bar in 1866, was appointed Maine Commissioner of Public Lands in 1869 and Maine Commissioner of Immigration in 1870. Also in 1870, Thomas founded the Town of New Sweden, Maine for 51 Swedish immigrants.
Elected to the Maine House of Representatives in 1872, he became its Speaker in 1874. From 1883 to 1905, he served as the United States Ambassador to Sweden. While in Sweden, he married his first wife, Dagmar Tornebldh, with whom he had three children. Widowed in 1912, Thomas married his first wife’s sister, Aina in 1915.
In 1919, William Widgery Thomas Jr. donated the Thomas Memorial Library to the Inhabitants of the Town of Cape Elizabeth to be maintained as a free public library forever. Ambassador Thomas died on April 25, 1927 at the age of 87 and was buried at Evergreen Cemetery, Portland, Maine.