Sen. Craig Thomas, 74; Voice For Wyo. Mining, Cattle Interests

A video image from the Senate chambers shows a bouquet of flowers on Sen. Craig Thomas's desk. Sen. Thomas was elected to a third term last year.
A video image from the Senate chambers shows a bouquet of flowers on Sen. Craig Thomas's desk. Sen. Thomas was elected to a third term last year. (Associated Press)
By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Craig Thomas, 74, a Wyoming Republican who served three terms in the U.S. Senate and was a reliable voice for the state's conservative political leanings as well as its mining and cattle industries, died June 4 at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. He had leukemia.

Sen. Thomas first won national office in 1989, in a special election to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of then-U.S. Rep. Dick Cheney (R) to become defense secretary under President George H.W. Bush. Sen. Thomas spent five years as his state's only U.S. representative before winning election to the Senate.

He served on the Senate Finance Committee, which gave him oversight on budget and tax matters, but he was most remembered for his work on committees affecting agriculture, energy and national resources.

He became an ally in President George W. Bush's efforts to bring energy exploration to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska -- not the first time he frustrated environmentalists with his advocacy of oil and gas exploration on some public lands.

Although he spoke out about seeking "a balance of energy development and conservation," he was often regarded as a champion of the commercial interests of his state. However, he occasionally backed wilderness protection measures for his state's largest national parks, Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

According to the Associated Press, he supported a popular uprising in 2004 against U.S. Forest Service plans to lease 175,000 acres in the Bridger-Teton National Forest for oil and gas development. The next year, the Forest Service reduced the proposed acreage to 44,600 acres.

Craig Lyle Thomas was born in Cody, Wyo., on Feb. 17, 1933. After graduating from the University of Wyoming in 1955, he spent four years in the Marine Corps and received a law degree from La Salle University in Philadelphia after beginning a business career.

He held executive positions with the Wyoming and U.S. farm bureaus and from 1975 to 1989 was general manager of the Wyoming Rural Electric Association, a trade group. He joined the state House in 1984 after losses in races for the state treasurer's office.

He won election to the U.S. Senate in 1994, beating Gov. Mike Sullivan (D) for an open seat, and was reelected in 2000 and last year for a term ending in January 2013. Over the years, he pushed for legislation supporting rural health programs.

Survivors include his wife, Susan Roberts Thomas; four children from an earlier marriage; and nine grandchildren.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company