ROGER THOMAS was highly regarded both as a constituency MP and as a dedicated general practitioner serving the old mining community of Cross Hands in west Wales.
A tireless worker, he achieved a famous victory in the 1979 General Election, wresting the Carmarthen seat from Plaid Cymru. It is still looked on as a milestone in the Labour Party's pre-eminence in Wales. And the victory was doubly important because it was won at a time when Labour was experiencing rough weather nationally. The defeat of the veteran nationalist Gwynfor Evans by 1,978 votes signalled one of the few Labour gains in a contest which installed Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street.
Thomas held Carmarthen in 1983 but shortly before the 1987 election he decided to stand down after being found guilty of importuning. The episode occasioned widespread sadness tempered with recognition at the dignified manner in which he bore himself.
Thomas was popular with his constituents. Anita Gale, general secretary of the Wales Labour Party, recalls how long it took him to walk through Carmarthen town centre because so many wanted to stop him to seek advice.
Born at Ammanford, on the edge of what was then the bustling South Wales coalfield, Thomas was educated at the local grammar school. He trained at the London Hospital Medical School, serving as a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps from 1949 to 1952. He retired from full-time practice four years ago but continued as a locum until shortly before his death at the age of 68.