Américo Tomás

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Américo Tómas
Américo Tomás.png
Américo Thomaz in Vale do Rio, Portugal, October, 1968.
Coat of arms of Portugal.svg
13th President of Portugal
In office
August 9, 1958 – April 25, 1974
Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar
Marcello Caetano
Preceded by Francisco Craveiro Lopes
Succeeded by António de Spínola
Minister for the Navy
In office
September 6, 1944 – August 14, 1958
Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar
Preceded by Mesquita Guimarães
Succeeded by Mendonça Dias
Personal details
Born Américo de Deus Rodrigues Thomaz
(1894-11-19)November 19, 1894
Lisbon, Kingdom of Portugal
Died 18 September 1987(1987-09-18) (aged 92)
Cascais, Portugal
Political party People's National Action (1970–74)
National Union (until 1970)
Spouse(s) Gertrudes Ribeiro da Costa, Mrs. Thomaz
Children Maria Natália (died 1980)
Maria Madalena
Alma mater Portuguese Naval School
Profession Naval officer
Religion Roman Catholicism
Military service
Service/branch Portuguese Navy
Years of service 1914–1974
Rank Rear admiral
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Order of Christ
Order of Aviz
Order of St. James of the Sword
Order of Charles III

Américo de Deus Rodrigues Thomaz, GCC, GOA, GOSE (Portuguese pronunciation: [ɐˈmɛɾiku dɨ ˈdewʃ ʁuˈdɾiɡɨʃ tuˈmaʃ]), (November 19, 1894 – September 18, 1987) was a Portuguese admiral and politician. He was the 13th President of Portugal, and the third and last president of the Estado Novo.

Early life[edit]

Américo de Deus Rodrigues Thomaz was born in Lisbon to his parents António Rodrigues Thomaz and Maria da Assunção Marques.

He married Gertrudes Ribeiro da Costa in October 1922. The couple had two children, Maria Natália Rodrigues Thomaz (born 1925) and Maria Madalena Rodrigues Thomaz (born 1930).

Thomaz attended the High School of Lapa, Portugal, in 1904, completing his secondary education in 1911. He then attended the Faculty of Sciences for two years (1912–1914), after which he joined the Naval Academy as a midshipman.

Military career[edit]

Rear Admiral Américo Thomaz

After Thomaz graduated from the Naval Academy in 1916, he was assigned to the Portuguese coast escort service on Vasco da Gama and later assigned to the Pedro Nunes and the destroyers Douro and Tejo [1] during World War I. In 1918, he received a promotion to Lieutenant.

On March 17, 1920, he was placed on the survey vessel 5 de Outubro, where he served for the next sixteen years. During this time, he was assigned to the survey mission of the Portuguese coast and was a board member of the Technical Commission for Hydrography, Navigation and Nautical Meteorology and a member of the Council for Studies of Oceanography and Fisheries. Thomaz was also a member of the International Permanent Council for the Exploration of the Sea.[1]

He was appointed chief of staff to the Minister of the Navy in 1936, President of the Merchant Marine National Junta from 1940 to 1944, and Minister of the Navy from 1944 to 1958.

During his term as Minister of the Navy, he was responsible for the total reconstruction of the Portuguese commercial navy organized under Dispatch 100. Fifty-six ships were ordered, with more than 300,000 tons of displacement. This dispatch included statutes that also allowed the formation of what is now the modern shipbuilding industry in Portugal. Thomaz' actions while Minister of the Navy created a positive reputation in the marine community, unlike the infamy created by several of his colleagues in the Portuguese Armed Forces (FAP) and the Portuguese government during their respective tenures.

President of the Republic[edit]

In 1958, he was chosen by then-Prime Minister António Salazar as the candidate of the ruling National Union party for the presidency of the republic, succeeding Francisco Craveiro Lopes. He ran against the opposition-backed Humberto Delgado. It initially appeared that the election ended as soon as Thomaz was nominated, since the electoral system was so heavily rigged in favour of the National Union that he could not possibly be defeated. However, in an unusually spirited contest, Thomaz was ultimately credited with 52.6 percent of the vote to Delgado's 23.5 percent.[2] Most neutral observers believed, however, that Delgado would have won had the election been honest. Salazar was frightened enough that he pushed through a constitutional amendment transferring election of the president to the legislature, which was firmly controlled by the regime. He was re-elected by the legislature in 1965 and 1972, both times as the only candidate.

Although vested with sweeping—almost dictatorial—powers on paper, in practice Thomaz was little more than a figurehead for his first decade in power. For most of the existence of the Estado Novo, Salazar, as prime minister, held the real power. Indeed, Salazar had chosen him because Craveiro Lopes had shown an independent streak that Salazar didn't like. The virtual powerlessness of his office under Salazar made him little more than a decorative figure at inaugurations and festivities. This, together with a natural inability for speech, made him target of frequent jokes.

Thomaz used his presidential prerogative just once during his first decade in office. In September 1968, Salazar was incapacitated by a severe stroke. Believing that Salazar did not have long to live, Thomaz dismissed Salazar and appointed Marcello Caetano to succeed him. For all intents and purposes, the president's power to dismiss the prime minister had been the only check on Salazar's power. However, he never told Salazar about this, and Salazar reportedly died two years later still believing he was prime minister. Thomaz took a much more active role in the government after Caetano took power. While he had given Salazar more or less a free hand, he was not willing to do the same for Caetano. Eventually, Thomaz became the rallying point for hard-liners who opposed Caetano's efforts to open up the regime. As meager as Caetano's reforms were, he had to expend nearly all of his political capital to wrangle them out of Thomaz and the hardliners.

Thomaz, while President of the Republic and unlike his predecessor, always lived in his private residence, only using the Belém Palace as an office and for official ceremonies.

Overthrow and death[edit]

When, on April 25, 1974, the "Carnation Revolution" ended 48 years of authoritarian rule in Portugal, Thomaz was exiled to Brazil.[3]

He was allowed to return to Portugal in 1980, but he was denied readmission into the Portuguese Navy and the special pension scheme which existed for former Presidents of the Republic.

Americo Thomaz died at 92 in a Cascais clinic from complications after a surgery.

Published works[edit]

  • Sem Espírito Marítimo Não É Possível o Progresso da Marinha Mercante, Lisbon, Own edition, 1956.
  • Renovação e Expansão da Frota Mercante Nacional, preface of Jerónimo Henriques Jorge, Lisbon, Own edition, 1958.
  • Citações, Lisbon, República, 1975.
  • Últimas Décadas de Portugal, l.º e 2.º vols., Lisbon, Fernando Pereira, 1980 and 1981.


  1. ^ a b Mascarenhas, João Mário; António José Telo (1997). "Américo de Deus Rodrigues Thomaz". A República e seus presidentes (in Portuguese). 
  2. ^ ISCSP. "Eleições presidenciais de 1958". ISCSP. 
  3. ^ Law 1/74 that ousted Americo Thomaz.
Political offices
Preceded by
Francisco Craveiro Lopes
President of Portugal
Succeeded by
António de Spínola