From his size-8 Stetson down to his Alberta-made cowboy boots, Myron Thompson was a sight from Central Casting. He bore a resemblance to the fictional Boss Hogg from the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard. He was driven, unwavering. A western politician who wore his beliefs on his sleeve.
If you wanted to know what Mr. Thompson was thinking, you were wise to brace yourself before asking. In no specific order, the 15-year member of Parliament was opposed to restrictive gun laws and same-sex relationships. He stood in favour of the war in Iraq and criticized the federal government for not supporting the United States in its fight. He was for tougher legislation against child pornography and animal abuse. Considered a redneck or a bigot or a homophobe by political adversaries, Mr. Thompson was one of the most devout MPs Alberta has ever seen, a prominent figure whose death from pancreatic cancer on Jan. 5 produced a gusher of reactions.
Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning saluted Mr. Thompson as “a colourful and straightforward Westerner.” Jason Kenney of the United Conservative Party described Mr. Thompson as “a true character" and said "Myron will be deeply missed.”
Former Wildrose leader Brian Jean said his friend and mentor was “a large man with a pretty serious face. I remember watching him in the House of Commons when I first got there and he just said it the way it was. He didn’t polish it. He didn’t smooth things over … Boss Hogg? Absolutely, he was that guy.”
There were certainly enough episodes in Mr. Thompson’s 82 years to fill his own TV series. Before his time spent in municipal and federal government, a youngish Mr. Thompson was a baseball prospect who tried out for the New York Yankees. He joked that his least favourite player became Yogi Berra, the veteran catcher Mr. Thompson couldn’t dislodge. Then there was his stint with Stu Hart, the godfather of Calgary-based Stampede Wrestling. Mr. Thompson went by the nom de headlock Tiger Thompson and slammed rivals into turnbuckles, a move he wasn’t allowed to duplicate on Parliament Hill.
Added to that, Mr. Thompson was a teacher, a principal, the mayor of Sundre, Alta., a survivor of five heart attacks and a man of his word. The thing was, not everyone liked all the words he spoke, including his own family.
“We didn’t agree on much politically,” said Mr. Thompson’s grandson Jeremy, who was born in Sundre and resides in Fort Worth, Tex. “But he never once said, ‘I’m the politician. I’m the adult. You’re just a kid. I don’t have to listen to you – and you’re wrong.’ ”
Myron Thompson was born April 23, 1936, in Monte Vista, Colo., a southwesterly ink spot on the state map. He attended Adams State College in Colorado in the late 1950s and earned a degree in business administration and education. Soon after, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he forged a lifetime of support for the military and its troops.
In 1968, Mr. Thompson moved to Sundre, north of Calgary, and taught school before running for mayor and winning in 1974. That same year, he became a Canadian citizen. Come 1993, Mr. Thompson was elected to Parliament as a Reform Party member for the former Wild Rose riding. There was rarely a dull performance when the honourable member from Alberta rose to his feet and chastised the government for its over-spending or for his not being allowed to wear a cowboy hat in the Commons.
It was Mr. Thompson’s belief that a cowboy hat was every bit as culturally significant as a turban or eagle feathers.
“He didn’t win that one,” Mr. Jean said.
Mr. Thompson could rattle on about any subject – the beef industry, provincial equalization, privatizing the CBC – but his most contentious position had to do with gay rights. At the Reform Party’s 1994 national convention, it was decided same-sex couples would not be eligible for family benefits. Mr. Thompson was quoted saying, “I do not hate homosexuals. I hate homosexuality.”
That remark and others like it were not forgotten when the LGBTQ community took to Twitter to comment on Mr. Thompson’s death. Many wished his family well but refused to pay homage to the man.
Mr. Jean insisted Mr. Thompson was true to the mood and values of the people who elected him, and that never changed.
“He didn’t care about the prime minister, to be blunt. He didn’t care about any ministers,” Mr. Jean said. “If you’re really a politician for the people, the only people you’re going to fit in with are the people you represent. That was all that mattered to him.”
Those closest to Mr. Thompson paint a more detailed portrait of the man who once met U.S. president George W. Bush and backed America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jeremy Thompson spoke of his grandfather’s persona away from the limelight and political arena; how he was a caring family man who never forgot his grandchildren’s birthdays and how he would call on every holiday – both the Canadian and American Thanksgiving, too – to make sure all were well and well loved.
“He wouldn’t apologize for those views even if they were controversial,” Jeremy Thompson said. “But because of his nature and because of how serious he was, he never stopped loving everyone he interacted with. He prayed for the world on a regular basis. His faith drove him.”
Mr. Thompson also spoke of his grandfather’s sense of humour and how he once told five-year-old Jeremy he couldn’t have any ice cream until he praised his grandfather’s hair for being so nice. The gag? Grandpa was bald on top and thin on the sides.
“My grandfather was my driving force to be the man I want to become,” Mr. Thompson said. “Since I turned 18, I’ve realized how much of an impact he’s had on me. If I can do half of what he did in a positive direction then I’ll be successful.”
Last month, Sundre town officials named a street after their former mayor, calling it Myron Thompson’s Way. He leaves his wife, Dot; sons, Myron Jr. and Dennis; and eight grandchildren.