Thomas, William Holland
- E. Stanly Godbold
Thomas, William Holland (05 February 1805–10 May 1893), the only white man to serve as chief of the North Carolina Cherokees, businessman, and soldier, was born in Haywood County, North Carolina, the son of Richard Thomas (who died before his birth) and Temperance Calvert. His father was a veteran of the American Revolution who had accepted land in western North Carolina as payment for his service during that war. Thomas grew up as a unique transcultural figure on the rugged, mountainous North Carolina frontier. From his mother he learned Christianity, impeccable manners, and the value of reading and hard work. Felix Hampton Walker, a local storekeeper, gave him a set of law books, which at the age of fifteen he read with such diligence that he was able to practice law. Thomas’s childhood friendships with Cherokee boys led to his learning their language and customs. They nicknamed him Wil-Usdi, or Little Will, because he was short. Yonaguska, the aging head man, treated the fatherless white boy as his own son. Thomas played ritualistic games with his adopted people, defended them against all intruders, and encouraged the perpetuation of their native culture and human dignity....