Craig L. Thomas

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Craig L. Thomas
Official portrait, 2005
United States Senator
from Wyoming
In office
January 3, 1995 – June 4, 2007
Preceded byMalcolm Wallop
Succeeded byJohn Barrasso
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wyoming's at-large district
In office
May 2, 1989 – January 3, 1995
Preceded byDick Cheney
Succeeded byBarbara Cubin
Member of the
Wyoming House of Representatives
for Natrona County
In office
January 8, 1985 – May 2, 1989
Preceded byJoe Stewart
Succeeded byBruce Hinchey
Personal details
Craig Lyle Thomas

(1933-02-17)February 17, 1933
Cody, Wyoming, U.S.
DiedJune 4, 2007(2007-06-04) (aged 74)
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
Resting placeRiverside Cemetery
Cody, Wyoming
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Leona M. Francis (divorced), and Susan Roberts Thomas
Alma materUniversity of Wyoming
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Marine Corps
Years of service1955–1959

Craig Lyle Thomas (February 17, 1933 – June 4, 2007) was an American politician who served as United States Senator from Wyoming from 1995 until his death in 2007. He was a member of the Republican Party. 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 70 percent of the vote.


Thomas was married to Leona M. Francis on February 22, 1955 in Uinta, Wyoming. The couple had three sons and one daughter, as well as nine grandchildren. They later divorced. Thomas later married the former Susan Roberts, a public school teacher for special-needs students in Arlington, Virginia.[citation needed]


Earlier official portrait of Thomas

Thomas graduated from the University of Wyoming in Laramie with a degree in animal husbandry. At the University he was a member of the Delta Chi Fraternity. 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 four years in the Wyoming House, Thomas won a special election on April 26, 1989 to replace Dick Cheney as Wyoming's lone member of the United States House of Representatives. He resigned as a state representative effective May 2, 1989 and took his seat in the U.S. House on the same day.[3][4] 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.[5]

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 Conservation Association with their William Penn Mott, Jr., Park Leadership Award,[6] 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 a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Thomas was instrumental in passing the Central America Free Trade Agreement.[7] As co-chair of the Senate Rural Health Caucus, Thomas worked on legislation to improve health care opportunities for rural families.

Illness and death[edit]

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.[8] He immediately underwent treatment in the form of chemotherapy at the hospital and then returned to work in December, a month earlier than expected.[9] 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.[10] Thomas was pronounced dead that same day from complications of leukemia at 9:53 PM EST.[8]

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.[11] 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.

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Veterans in the US Senate 109th Congress" (PDF). Navy League. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-28. Retrieved 2006-12-09.
  2. ^ Kevin Merida and Kenneth J. Cooper (September 25, 1994). A Matter of Degrees. The Washington Post
  3. ^ Wyoming Blue Book (PDF). Vol. 4. 1991. p. 191. Retrieved 2023-01-26.
  4. ^ Melnykovych, Andrew (May 3, 1989). "Thomas takes oath of office". Casper Star-Tribune. p. A1. Retrieved 2023-01-26 – via
  5. ^ Craig L. Thomas Official Biography Archived 2007-06-08 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Salute to the Parks Awards: Past Awardees". National Parks Conservation Association. Archived from the original on 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2010-06-14.
  7. ^ Becker, Elizabeth (15 June 2005). "Central American Trade Pact Passes First Congressional Test". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Wyoming Sen. Craig Thomas Dies at 74". FOX News. 2007-06-05. Archived from the original on 2007-06-07.
  9. ^ Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., dead at 74 Archived 2013-02-09 at
  10. ^ Billings, Erin P. Sen. Thomas in 'Serious Condition,' Struggling With Infection Roll Call, June 4, 2007. Retrieved June 4, 2007.
  11. ^ Johnson, Kirk (2007-06-05). "Craig Thomas, Senator From Wyoming, Dies at 74". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-06-05.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Wyoming
(Class 1)

1994, 2000, 2006
Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wyoming's at-large congressional district

April 26, 1989–January 3, 1995
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 1) from Wyoming
January 3, 1995 – June 4, 2007
Served alongside: Alan K. Simpson, Mike Enzi
Succeeded by