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Public Statements

Remembering Senator Craig Thomas

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, a visitor to the rodeo in Cheyenne, WY, just last summer would have seen a strong, confident, 73-year-old man holding the reins under a cowboy hat riding past the grandstand with a smile. A few weeks earlier, visitors to rustic Cody, WY, would have seen the same tough cowboy riding down Sheridan Avenue in the Cody Stampede Parade. Just a few days ago, a tourist here in Washington, getting an early start on the monuments, could have seen Craig Lyle Thomas racing off 395 near the 14th Street Bridge in another kind of Mustang on his way to the Capitol for a hard day's work.

In recent years, Craig Thomas led an effort here in the Senate to honor the deeds and the spirit of the American cowboy, and his very full American life came to a sad end last night. We, his friends and colleagues, remember him as the modern-day embodiment of the cowboy ideals he celebrated and loved.

He was raised on a ranch just outside Cody, the rodeo capital of the world, in the Big Horn Basin, a windy town in the northwest corner of the Cowboy State. He grew up in the shadow of Heart Mountain to the north and Carter Mountain to the south and under the memory of Cody's founder, William Frederick Cody, known to history and to schoolchildren from Butte to Boston as Buffalo Bill.

He was a humble man with an adventurous spirit from a lonely corner of the country who put his family, his country, and his State above all else. He served as a marine from 1955 to 1959, retiring as a captain. He married a woman with a generous heart. My wife Elaine is a good friend of Susan's, and one of the joys of Elaine's time in the last few years was being invited out to Susan's school to speak to her students.

Craig was the proud father of four children--Lexie, Patrick, Gregg, and Peter--who today mourn their father's death.

Craig was as much at home on horseback, roping, and ranching, as he was in a committee hearing room. How many times he must have daydreamed about being back home, out of a suit, with a rope in his hand and a steer in his sights.

Craig had served in public office 22 years when he fell ill at a church service with Susan last November in Casper. Shortly after that, the people of Wyoming elected him to his third term in the Senate, with 70 percent of the vote. A born fighter, Craig's doctors said he would be back here in January. He beat their predictions by a month. He was here in December. Craig suffered quietly over the last half year, as all of us hoped for the best. It wasn't to be.

Every year, Craig pressed for a day that would memorialize the iconic status of the cowboy in American history, a day that honored their courage, hard work, honesty, and grit. I can think of no better way of honoring that spirit than by honoring this man who embodied it to the fullest. By his devotion to family, country, constituents, and friends, Craig Lyle Thomas showed us what it means to be an American. He embodied the best ideals of a Wyoming cowboy and made the Senate and those who had the privilege of knowing him far better for it.

We mourn with Susan, Craig's children, and Craig's staff here in the Senate. We honor them today, too, for their model of professionalism and caring concern they have shown over the last difficult months. We will miss Craig terribly, his calm toughness, his drive, and his cowboy spirit, but we are consoled by the thought that he will ride again, restored in body and flashing a smile as he goes.

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