Skip to content

The following is a transcript of the remarks U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., made on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, June 5, 2007 about his friend and colleague U.S. Senator Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., who died Monday night.

Mr. Enzi: Thank you, Madam President. When my plane touched down last night, I received an e-mail that told of the fate of a great man. It was a tremendous surprise to me.

I just completed a week working in Wyoming, explaining to people that Craig even timed his chemotherapy so that he did not have to miss votes and how tough and strong a man he was. Craig Thomas was a Marine at heart but he was a cowboy in his soul. He was quiet. He was focused. He was independent. He was hard-working. He loved the Senate and he loved the Marines and he loved his horses. The flags have been lowered and there is a great deal of sadness in our hearts today as we mourn his loss and celebrate his life.

I have had a lot of thoughts. I have not had a chance really to put them together. They come gushing back along with a lot of tears. For those of us from Wyoming, Craig Thomas was more than just our senator. He was our voice in the Senate and he was never one to back off from a fight, especially when he was battling for two things most dear-- what was best for Wyoming and what was best for America. Craig had long Wyoming roots and he was very proud of them. He grew up in Cody and became friends with Al Simpson and later on, the two of them would serve together in the Senate. After he graduated from the University of Wyoming, Craig immediately began his service to the country he loved. He joined the Marine Corps, and I am convinced that that experience helped to shape his character and molded his destiny. His steely resolve and firm will took shape I think during those days that helped guide him and prepare him for the battles that would come later in his political life. When Craig's service in the Marine Corps was through, he began what was to be his life's work, which was serving the people of Wyoming to ensure their best interests were taken care of and their needs were addressed. His first efforts for Wyoming brought him to the Wyoming Farm Bureau and the Wyoming Rural Electric Association. He was proud of the service with both of these organizations that kept him actively involved in issues that meant a great deal to him and, more importantly, it kept him in touch with the people of Wyoming and their day-to-day problems. It also set him on the road to doing anything and everything he could to make life easier for his fellow citizens in Wyoming.

I remember our days when we served together in the Wyoming State House. I had been a mayor and had municipal electric experience and he had worked for the Rural Electric Association and we worked a lot of electrical bills together at that time as Wyoming House members. We could bring both perspectives in, find the middle ground and make sure that all of the people, rural and urban -- I use the term urban for Wyoming rather loosely -- would be able to have low-cost electricity and consistent electricity. Nobody knew energy or electricity better than Craig. That led him to running for the U.S. House of Representatives. Dick Cheney was appointed Secretary of Defense and Craig ran for and won his seat. It was not an easy victory, but it showed what a fighter and a battler he was as he took on that challenge, which was common, and was in a relatively short period of time. The Wyoming Republican Party Executive Committee just has a few days to select candidates and then there is a very short time for an election for the position in the House. He used his usual toughness and went around the state, talked to everybody and won that election. Incidentally, the person that he ran against in the primary, Tom Sansonetti, became his chief of staff, which shows how people get along in Wyoming. To no one's surprise, Craig focused on the Wyoming issues when he was in the House and he was re-elected. When Malcolm Wallop decided to retire, Craig was such a popular choice statewide that he did not have any opposition in the primary. He did face another battle in the general election but once again, his fighting spirit prevailed and he found a way to win. Now, interestingly enough, the person that he defeated in the general election was a very popular governor of Wyoming who was just ending his term. The governor was later appointed ambassador to Ireland by President Clinton and to Craig Thomas' credit, the hearing was scheduled for that ambassadorship before the papers ever got to Capitol Hill. Ambassador Sullivan did a fantastic job in Ireland. Craig won the Senate seat and two years later, I ran for the Senate. He is one of the few Wyoming residents who served both in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the U.S. Senate. It has not been a tradition in Wyoming to move from the House to the Senate. I was elected in 1996 and then got a chance to work with him again. He was a remarkable man of vision on how to make Wyoming and our country better places to live. He spent a good deal of his time traveling Wyoming. He was one of the most ardent travelers we have ever had in the Senate, going back virtually every weekend, traveling a different part of the state, talking to people and trying to get their vision for the future. One of his efforts on that was called "Vision 20/20" and he challenged the people of Wyoming, he stretched the people's imagination on what our state ought to be like in the year 2020. That was in 1998. We are getting a lot closer to 2020 and I think the state is moving toward the vision that he predicted at that time. It was a goal he cherished and fought for and many of the things that he envisioned -- or the people of Wyoming envisioned-- have been achieved through his efforts on the Senate floor.

Craig Thomas will long be remembered as one of Wyoming's toughest and fiercest advocates. Craig knew that much of our work gets done in committee and so he pursued those committees that would help him fight for Wyoming in the Senate. He served on the critical Finance Committee. He was a staunch fiscal conservative and he believed very strongly that the people in Wyoming and across the nation know better how to spend their hard-earned money than the federal government does. He used his position on the committee to lighten the tax burden and to make our tax code more fair. He was the ranking member on the Indian Affairs Committee. He served as chairman of the National Parks Subcommittee, where he was a tireless advocate for our park system. I think he visited most of our parks and earlier when our Republican leader was talking about horseback, it was even possible to see Craig with the park policemen on horseback taking a look at the parks of the Capitol. I would mention that usually when you saw him on horseback, you also saw his wife Susan on horseback. She was a tireless traveler and an outstanding campaigner and another person who searched for the vision -- who searches for the visions of Wyoming. In parades, they always rode horses. They had special saddle blankets that helped to say who they were, as if people in Wyoming wouldn't know who they were. I would mention that she was thrown from a horse a couple of times too. Bands and horses don't always go well in hand. But as Craig always said, she was the real campaigner in the family. She actually liked it. She does a marvelous job for our state.

Craig's been real active on all of the agriculture issues and international trade, particularly country-of-origin labeling. He supported our cattlemen with grazing rights and responsible environmental quality incentive programs for runoff issues. He worked tirelessly to get changes in the Endangered Species Act. He realized that the Act was a national program with national goals and it should not punish individuals or counties or even the states and that there ought to be responsibility at the federal level. With energy, he was the lead sponsor of our soda ash royalty relief bill. He was the lead sponsor on a recreational fee demonstration program that allowed the national parks to keep a higher percentage of the receipts that were received on public lands where they were collected. Specifically, his efforts to include section 413 of the Energy Policy Act, which authorizes federal cost-share for the building of a coal gasification project above 4,000 feet. We have huge resources of coal. We ship over a third of the nation's coal, over a million tons a day. The reason we ship so much coal is because it's very low sulfur. Craig was providing a mechanism to be able to have some assurance that coal gasification of this clean coal would be included in projects that we did in the United States. It would help to prove the technology at high altitude and show the viability and make a difference for the United States in all our energy in the future. He was also instrumental in writing the electricity title of the Energy Policy Act. Recently, his efforts to get a coal to liquid section of whatever energy bill we'll soon debate, has been tireless. Although he was unsuccessful thus far, he advanced the debate to the furthest point that it's moved. In the area of transportation and aviation, during the last F.A.A. reauthorization, Craig was very instrumental in radar upgrades for the Jackson Airport. It was imperative for the growth of the city and the airport, especially related to tourism. I think Jackson is the only state that has -- the only city in Wyoming that has long-distance direct flights. Most of them come through Salt Lake or Denver or Minneapolis, but Jackson actually has flights that come from Houston and Atlanta direct. Craig also did a lot for Wyoming with two big transportation authorization bills to assure that the large land area of the low population states received a fair amount of highway funding. As I mentioned on fiscal issues, he was a staunch conservative who believed that the people knew how to spend their money better than the federal government.

Now, a few months ago, Craig shared his medical situation with us. He was in for another difficult fight but he was used to them. He's been a battler all his life. He took the fierce determination that he learned as a Marine and brought it to this. His latest battle against leukemia, unfortunately, it was a battle this great fighter was not to win. Although that last battle of his life was lost, there were so many victories in his life that we will long remember. Craig died as he lived, with his spurs on, fighting for Wyoming to the very end. I'm sure we all have our favorite instant replay memories of Craig and his unique style. I've always believed that you can get a lot done if you don't care who gets the credit -- that was Craig. Never one to seek the limelight or to draw attention to himself. He was the one working in committee to assure that the voice of the Wyoming people and America were heard and heard clearly. For me, I'll always remember Craig's spirit, for his spirit and life was a great illustration of the spirit of Wyoming. His life became a living portrait of the American West. He saw a world from the saddle of his horse and from under the brim of his cowboy hat. He was proud of Wyoming and Wyoming was proud to be represented by him. Craig was my senior senator. He was my confidant, a mentor, but most of all, he was a very good friend. Diana and I will always feel that -- an appreciation for the fact that Craig and Susan made us a part of their family. Our prayers are with Susan and their family during these difficult times. I'll miss him but because he was such a special presence in my life and for so many others, I have a long list of instant replay memories I'll always cherish of him. The times we were out on the campaign trail, the legislation we worked on together, and more importantly, the impact that he had on my life personally. As he did with so many others.

Wyoming is a different place today because of this great loss of ours. There's a great sadness in the state and also a great joy as we celebrate the life of one of our special citizens. He was with us for all too short a time but he'll never be forgotten. I received a book called Give Me Mountains for My Horses by Tom Reed, but what I always ask for is that they give us men to match our mountains and our horses. That would be Craig. I want to share just a little piece of this because I know that Craig's already riding in a far better place. It says, "There's a taste of this place, this time. Nothing is behind you. Everything is ahead. But you don't really think about what's ahead. You only think of now, for this partnership you have entered into is one of the moment, of now. Now has you in a saddle on a bay horse heading up a trail of pines and spruce and mountain of supreme and meadow. Behind you connected by only your hand and the lead rope but carrying everything important to you is another bay horse, an almost identical match to the one you're riding. You call them nicknames as if they were human companion padres, drinking buddies. You cluck and coo and talk to them as if they give a damn about what you have to say. You think they do and maybe, just maybe, they do. Right now, they're stepping out, heads nodding down the trail through the stream and all you have to do is ride. That evening, as dusk brings the mosquitoes out of the willows, the same dusk that put the horse flies to bed. You choose a camp. It's a good place, save for the bugs, with room for the horses and the broad, deep green meadow and camp back against the lodge poles and your kitchen down always. So you ease off the bay’s back and stretch your muscles with that stiff, good, hard-working feeling and you begin to unload the pack horse, talking to him, thanking him. In a while, he has on his hobbles and is out there with his buddies snorting contentedly in the tall grass and swishing a long, coal black tail at the mosquitoes. It goes like this for days. The ride, the squeak of the saddle leather, the smell of dust, the taste of it on your tongue, the smell of horse sweat and your own and the soft muzzles muzzling you off a long day. Good camp after good camp. Muscles turning hard. Eyes becoming sharp for wildlife. And riding. Always riding. One evening, a big sow grizzly and her cub cross a broad meadow far out there. A tough gal rambling, giving you and your horse a wide berth. But still the binoculars sweat in your hand and your mouth is dry. Boy, what a beautiful animal. The next morning, a moose walks the same path. You haven't seen another human in days, but there's a jet contrail reminding you that yes, this is the modern world. You ride."

Craig rode the modern world. He worked hard in this body. He would have liked to have been out there in those mountains on those horses enjoying the smells and the sounds. Now he can ride. Ride on, my friend. Ride on.

I yield the floor.


Condolences and Memorials

People wishing to send notes of condolence to the family of Sen. Craig Thomas may send them to: Mrs. Craig (Susan) Thomas, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Suite 307, Washington, DC 20510


100 E. B St., Suite 2201, Federal Center, Casper, WY 82601

Memorial contributions may be made to: Special Olympics of Wyoming, 350 W. A St., Suite 101, Casper, WY 82601

Leukemia/Lymphoma Society, Rocky Mountain Chapter, 5353 W. Dartmouth Ave., Suite 400, Denver, CO 80227