CHEYENNE — Governors, past and present, all three members of Wyoming’s congressional delegation and other dignitaries turned out Friday afternoon to honor former Secretary of State Thyra Thomson.
Thomson, who served 24 years in the No. 2 state elected office, died June 11. She was 96.
During the memorial service at the First Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne, Thomson was eulogized as the “queen of Wyoming,” a woman who accomplished a lot, had a great sense of humor and enjoyed people of all ages.
She was also remembered for using her position as a bully pulpit for women’s rights and equal pay.
Pete Simpson of Cody said he first met Thomson in 1954 when he was 24 years old and was helping his father, Milward Simpson, to campaign for governor.
Thomson was campaigning for her husband, Keith Thomson, who was running for the U.S. House.
Thyra Thomson injected a lot of energy into the campaign.
“She was a cross between a Broadway star and a cowgirl,” Simpson said. “I fell in love, like we all did.”
Simpson said Thyra campaigned door-to-door in high heels on a Sunday.
Thyra was the first woman elected secretary of state in Wyoming. Simpson said she was more than a political match for “the boys.”
He added that he also admired her in her later years “when she battled the demons of age with good cheer.”
She married Keith Thomson of Crook County in 1939 when both were students at the University of Wyoming.
In 1941 her husband was called into military service. When Keith returned to Wyoming after the war, he decided to run for Congress.
After three terms in the House, he ran successfully for the U.S. Senate in 1960. He died of a heart attack about a month before taking office.
Thyra moved back to Cheyenne with her three sons, then successfully ran for secretary of state in 1962.
She was re-elected in 1966 by the largest majority ever received by a candidate for a partisan office in Wyoming.
She retired at the end of 1986 after 24 years as secretary of state — the longest tenure of any statewide elected official in Wyoming history.
Lynne Cheney, wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said that when she learned Thyra Thomson had died, she immediately remembered her dancing.
Thomson, she said, was elected at a time when women were the coffee-makers and errand people in offices. But she never was grim about the stereotyping and went on to serve as a pathfinder for many women, stumping for equal pay and adequate day care, Cheney said.
She also made herself an expert on securities law, which she administered as secretary of state, Cheney added.
Thyra will be interred with her husband at Arlington National Cemetery.