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Craig Thomas


In office
January 4, 1995 – June 4, 2007
Preceded by Malcolm Wallop
Succeeded by John Barrasso

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wyoming's At-large district
In office
April 26, 1989 – January 3, 1995
Preceded by Dick Cheney
Succeeded by Barbara Cubin

Born February 17, 1933(1933-02-17)
Cody, Wyoming
Died June 4, 2007 (aged 74)
Bethesda, Maryland
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Susan Roberts Thomas
Alma mater University of Wyoming
Occupation Rancher
Religion Methodist

Craig Lyle Thomas (February 17, 1933 – June 4, 2007) was an American politician who served over twelve years as a Republican United States senator from Wyoming. In the Senate, Thomas was considered an expert on agriculture and rural development. He had served in key positions in several state agencies, including a long tenure as Vice President of the Wyoming Farm Bureau from 1965 to 1974. Thomas resided in Casper for twenty-eight years. In 1984, he was elected from Casper to the Wyoming House of Representatives, in which he served until 1989.

In 1989, Dick Cheney, who occupied Wyoming's only seat in the House of Representatives, resigned to become Secretary of Defense. Thomas became the Republican candidate to succeed Cheney and won the April 1989 special election. He was re-elected in 1990 and 1992, and in 1994 he ran for and won the Senate seat being vacated by fellow conservative Republican Malcolm Wallop of Sheridan in northeastern Wyoming. He was re-elected in 2000 and 2006, having easily beaten Democratic candidates in both elections with margins of 70 percent or more.

Thomas was married to the former Susan Roberts, whom he met in Casper. She is a public school teacher for special-needs students in Arlington, Virginia. They had three sons, Peter, Patrick, and Greg; one daughter, Lexie; and nine grandchildren.

Contents

Biography

Thomas was born and reared in Cody, the seat of Park County in northwestern Wyoming, roughly 50 miles east of Yellowstone National Park. His parents were public school teachers who operated a dude ranch business on the edge of Yellowstone during the summers. The family's interest in tourism later led Thomas to purchase a small hotel in Torrington.

Thomas graduated from the University of Wyoming in Laramie with a degree in animal husbandry. Thereafter, he served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps from 1955 to 1959; he attained the rank of Captain.[1] He obtained a law degree from La Salle Extension University, though he did not list it on later official biographies.[2]

In addition to his work with the Farm Bureau, he was general manager of the Wyoming Rural Electrification Administration. After five years in the Wyoming House, Thomas won a special election to replace Dick Cheney as Wyoming's lone member of the United States House of Representatives; he was re-elected to that seat in 1990 and 1992. In 1994, he ran for the United States Senate and won, defeating popular Democratic Governor Mike Sullivan by 20 percentage points. He was elected second term in 2000 with a 74 percent majority, one of the largest margins in Wyoming election history. In the 2006 election he was opposed by Democratic engineer Dale Groutage. Thomas was re-elected to a third term with 70 percent of the ballots even as Democratic Governor Dave Freudenthal was also winning with the same 70 percent margin.[3]

As chairman of the National Parks Subcommittee, Thomas authored legislation to provide funding and management reforms to protect America's national parks into the 21st century. For this and other relevant legislation, Thomas was honored by the National Parks and Conservation Association with their William Penn Mott, Jr., Park Leadership Award, as well as the National Parks Achievement Award. As the senior member of the Senate's influential Finance Committee, Thomas had been involved in issues such as Social Security, trade, rural health care, and tax reform. As co-chair of the Senate Rural Health Caucus, Senator Thomas worked on legislation to improve health care opportunities for rural families.

Thomas pushed for the nomination of former State Representative Richard Honaker of Rock Springs to serve as U.S. District Judge in Cheyenne to succeed the retiring Clarence A. Brimmer, who had been an unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial hopeful in 1974. The Honaker nomination, however, ran into delays when the Senate Judiciary delayed his hearing for eleven months, and opposition surface from abortion access advocates and secularists.

Illness and death

Thomas entered the hospital shortly before the balloting occurred in November 2006 and was initially treated for pneumonia. Two days after the 2006 election, Thomas' diagnosis of leukemia was announced.[4] He immediately underwent treatment in the form of chemotherapy at the hospital and then returned to work in December, a month earlier than expected.[5] In early 2007, Thomas said he was feeling better than he had in a long time, but he returned to the hospital for a second round of chemotherapy a month later. On June 4, 2007, Thomas was reported in serious condition, struggling with an infection while undergoing a second round of chemotherapy at Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.[6] Thomas was pronounced dead that same day from complications of leukemia at 9:53 PM EST.[4]

Thomas' services were held in the Methodist Church in Casper on June 9, 2007. The two Senate leaders, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), headed a delegation of some twenty members of Congress who came to pay respects to the deceased senator. Thomas' burial was in Riverside Cemetery in Cody on June 10.

Under Wyoming law, Governor Freudenthal was required to appoint a new senator from a list of three submitted by the Wyoming Republican Party's central committee because the seat was vacated by a Republican.[7] The GOP met on June 19, 2007 in Casper to select three candidates from thirty applicants to send to the governor. Tom Sansonetti, former state Treasurer Cynthia Lummis, and State Senator John Barrasso were nominated. On June 22, 2007 Governor Dave Freudenthal appointed Barrasso as Thomas's successor in the U.S. Senate.

Senator Thomas has been honored posthumously by having the Visitor Center in Grand Teton National Park named for him. The building, in Moose, Wyoming, was dedicated on August 11, 2007, with many dignitaries attending, including Vice President Dick Cheney.

See also

References

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Dick Cheney
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wyoming's At-large congressional district

April 26, 1989–January 3, 1995
Succeeded by
Barbara Cubin
United States Senate
Preceded by
Malcolm Wallop
United States Senator (Class 1) from Wyoming
January 3, 1995 – June 4, 2007
Served alongside: Alan K. Simpson, Mike Enzi
Succeeded by
John Barrasso
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