Craig Lyle Thomas
Craig Thomas was first, and always, a champion of Wyoming. Born in Wapiti, Wyoming, his deep love of western life and his home state led to a career in public service that spanned more than two decades. Craig was a cowboy. A veteran. A devoted husband and father. A fearless guardian of Wyoming's natural resources. A protector of the western way of life. A national leader. A humble Wyoming hero.
Craig Thomas served more than twelve years as a United States Senator. Prior to that, he served in the Wyoming House of Representatives before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Craig represented Wyoming with honor and dignity. He achieved unassumingly what he set out to do -- to make a difference for the state and the people he loved.
Craig Thomas was born on February 17, 1933 to school teachers in Cody, Wyoming. During the summer months, his parents operated a small dude ranch business on the edge of Yellowstone National Park. It was there and then that Craig developed a love and appreciation for Wyoming's special places that would later inspire his leadership of our National Parks.
During those summers guiding on horseback, he also learned to work hard and to earn his way in the world. Those who knew him, either closely or observing from a distance, witnessed the same quality of Craig Thomas: a cowboy's tireless work ethic and respect for those around him. He held that ethic throughout his career. Without doubt, his modest start in life shaped his nature as a fiscal conservative and his lifelong dedication to advocate for the average Wyoming person.
Following high school in Cody, he attended the University of Wyoming and joined its wrestling team. The University's legendary wresting coach Everett Lance was an important influence, training Craig's competitive focus with an ethic of how to win with more than simple strength, but with honor and strength of character.
Craig studied agriculture at UW and earned a bachelor's degree in animal husbandry. Like most men in the late 1950s, military service beckoned, and for an athletic man with determination and drive, the Marine Corps was a perfect fit. Trained at Quantico, Craig was stationed in Japan in the later part of that decade, rising to the rank of Captain.
He returned home with a broadened view of the world and the powers that shape it. Agriculture policy and the issues of the West compelled him and he began work for the Wyoming Farm Bureau, the American Farm Bureau in Washington, DC and later the Wyoming Rural Electric Association. Reflecting his roots in small business, he also bought a small hotel in Torrington, Wyoming that would ground him squarely in the state's tourism policy for years to come.
It was during those years, based in Casper, that he met an educator of high school children with special needs named Susan Roberts. Raised on a ranch in Barnum, Susan shared Craig's love of Wyoming, horses, politics and people. Theirs was a remarkable marriage, as life partners and each other's best friend.
Craig's political ambitions took hold with races for the State Treasurer's office and the Wyoming State House of Representatives. He served in the Wyoming House of Representatives from 1984 to 1989 when he won a special election to replace then U.S. Congressman Dick Cheney for Wyoming's at-large House seat. Craig became a member of the Wyoming Congressional Delegation, serving with his boyhood friend, U.S. Senator Al Simpson, and U.S. Senator Malcolm Wallop. Then in 1994 with Wallop's retirement, Craig chose to run for the U.S. Senate, winning that race, then in 2000 and again in 2006. Over that time, U.S. Senator Craig Thomas became one of Wyoming's most popular and beloved public servants.
The United States Senate
As Wyoming's senior U.S. Senator, Craig positioned himself on the committees with the greatest legislative importance for Wyoming. In addition to serving on the Energy Committee, he served on the Senate's most powerful panel - the Senate Finance Committee, as well as Agriculture, Indian Affairs, and Ethics. In his work, Wyoming and Wyoming people were central. His efforts in job creation and economic growth were the foundation of his vision to improve the quality of life for a better future for people in communities across the state.
His distinguished legislative record on issues as diverse as public land management, agriculture, fiscal responsibility and rural health care continue to make a difference in the lives of Wyoming people. He valued resources - the energy resources with which Wyoming is blessed, as well as the scenic resources that make Wyoming so uniquely beautiful and drive tourism.
As chairman of the Senate Energy Committee's National Park Subcommittee, Craig Thomas worked tirelessly on National Park policy and smart ways to help the parks with infrastructure -- from management reforms to landmark improvements in concessionaire policy to roads to visitors' centers. National visitors and state residents have benefited dramatically from Craig's work ushering National Parks into the 21st century.
In honor of his efforts, a new visitor center in Grand Teton National Park was dedicated on August 11, 2007 and named the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. Craig received numerous other awards and recognitions for his work with the National Park system including the National Parks Conservation Association's William Penn Mott Jr. Park Leadership Award and the National Parks Achievement Award.
A Wyoming Cowboy
Tough country breeds uncompromising values, tested by experience. The grit of Craig Thomas is legendary. He never backed down from a challenge. On the floor of the Senate or the rodeo arena, he continued to fight and rope, wrestle and win with honor. Those close to him knew that behind his strength was a constant faith that carried him through each brave experience. He was devout, quietly and steadfastly with abiding hope. Craig knew where he came from, knowing exactly the man he was.
Outside of his duties as a State Legislator, U.S. Congressman and Senator, Craig was extremely active in the Wyoming community. He was involved in volunteer efforts that included the Special Olympics of Wyoming, the state Developmental Disabilities Council and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation on which he and Susan shared roles as Honorary Chairs. He helped countless organizations in raising money for causes in Wyoming. From 4-H to Girls State, rodeo clubs to the spelling bee teams, vo-tech to valedictorian, Craig gave his time, kindness and inspiration to thousands of Wyoming school children.
Craig was blessed with four children and later, with their growing families, nine grandchildren. His sons, Peter, Greg, Patrick, and daughter, Lexie, proudly shared their father with an entire state and nation.
On June 4, 2007, Craig passed away peacefully surrounded by his family. Throughout Wyoming and across the country, many mourned his passing. President of the United States George W. Bush called Craig "a man of character and integrity known for his devotion to the values he shared with the people of Wyoming." He gave his time, his passion, his leadership and his tireless energy to make Wyoming a better place.
Susan Roberts Thomas
Susan Thomas was raised on a ranch in Johnson County, Wyoming - the famous country of Butch Cassidy and his "Hole in the Wall" gang. As an educator, she has spent 44 years advocating for the rights of learners who struggle in life and in school, and has earned the respect of her peers and the admiration of her students.
Susan Thomas earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Northern Colorado in 1971 and went to work in Wyoming as one of the first educators to teach students with learning disabilities. In 1981, following nine years at the elementary school level, Susan began teaching high school students at Kelly Walsh High School in Casper, Wyoming, earning her Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wyoming along the way.
When her husband was elected as Wyoming's lone U.S. Representative in 1989, she moved to the Washington D.C. area and was employed at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia for 18 years. Mrs. Thomas earned the distinction of "Highly Qualified" in the area of Social Studies for Special Needs students, grades K-12 in accordance with the guidelines of the No Child Left Behind Act.
In addition to her work in the classroom, Susan Thomas has testified before the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education and has led a variety of education workshops dealing with the education of children with special needs. She has been a guest lecturer for the University of Wyoming and George Washington University in Washington, DC.
Mrs. Thomas was honored as the Teacher of the Year for Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, VA for the 2002-2003 school year and was named in "Who's Who in American Education." She retired from teaching in 2007 after spending 36 years in the classroom.
Mrs. Thomas was selected as the 2009 Woman of Distinction by Soroptimists International of Central Wyoming.
Outside of the classroom, Susan Thomas has been a leading advocate in the fight against breast cancer in Wyoming and throughout the nation, starting the Wyoming Race for the Cure in 1994.
In 2008, Mrs. Thomas established a foundation to help young people who need extra assistance to learn a profession or trade. The Craig and Susan Thomas Foundation helps students who are at risk become productive citizens. It also honors the work her husband, United States Senator Craig Thomas, did for Wyoming. A non-profit, charitable organization, the Foundation has awarded scholarships to dozens of students, enabling them to gain post-secondary education in Wyoming colleges and trade schools. Because this is a mentorship program with a scholarship component, Mrs. Thomas personally mentors each student throughout his or her college experience. The Foundation has also helped a wide variety of organizations that champion our youth and honors adult leaders who go the extra mile to teach and nurture young learners, with an annual Leadership Award.
Mrs. Thomas is involved with Pure Water for the World (PWW), a charitable organization in Haiti. She has made several trips to Haiti with PWW to help provide simple biosand water filter systems to families and schools. She has worked with volunteer groups, as well as state and national leaders, to educate them about the dire need for clean water in poor countries.
Mrs. Thomas raises and provides basic training to service puppies for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), based in Santa Rosa, CA.
Susan Thomas was a full partner with her husband, United States Senator Craig Thomas, in the political world and is truly honored to have the opportunity to continue to serve the great state of Wyoming. Mrs.
Thomas currently serves on the following Boards and Committees:
- UW College of Education Advisory Board - 2008 - 2011 ; 2015- Present
- Wyoming Breast Cancer Consortium advisor - Present
- Haiti. Pure Water for the World Committee - 2014- Present
- Honorary Board Member, Reach for a Star Riding Academy - 2010 - Present
- Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo Board - 2009 - Present
- Resource Council, Grand Teton National Park Foundation – 2007- Present
Mrs. Thomas has served on a number of local, state and national boards throughout the years. Her past service includes:
- Board Member, Wyoming Cancer Foundation
- Member Military Affairs Committee, Casper Area Chamber of Commerce
- Wyoming National Guard Youth Foundation Program board - 2007 - 2012
- Honorary Director of Honor Flight Wyoming - 2009 - 2011
- Wyoming Art for the Cure, Honorary Member - 2009/2010
- Honorary Member, Board of the GOTTSCHE Foundation - 2007 - 2010
- Mercer House Board of Directors - 2007 - 2010
- Wyoming Business Alliance/Wyoming Heritage Foundation Steering Committee - 2007 - 2009
- Raising Readers Advisory Board - 2006 - 2008
- National Capitol Area Leukemia/Lymphoma Society
- National Board for the Continental Divide - 2005
- Wyoming State Race for the Cure Board - 1994 - 2005
- National Race for the Cure Advisory Board - 1994-1999
- Congressional Family Cancer Awareness Board - 1994 - 2000
- Congressional Mental Health Association Board - 1991 - 2007
- Natrona County Mental Health Board - 1987 - 1989