Dartmouth skier, adventurer, politician

Passing Date: 
Saturday, October 1, 2016

Lowell Thomas Jr., film producer, author, politician, pilot and friend of the Dalai Lama, died October 1, 2016, a week short of his 93rd birthday.

In 1939 his father, Lowell Thomas, Sr., sent the 15-year-old to South America as assistant to a Fox Movietone cameraman, to learn cinematography. In 1942 he dropped out of Dartmouth to join the U.S. Army Air Force, where he served as an instructor pilot on B-25s. After the war he returned to Dartmouth, where he jumped for the ski team, and graduated with a degree in international affairs. During the late ‘40s he worked around the world as a flying cameraman.

In 1949, the father-and-son team became the last westerners to trek into Tibet before the Communist Chinese invasion. There, they met the 15-year-old Dalai Lama and his family. On their return, Lowell Jr. married Mary “Tay” Pryor; the couple honeymooned by flying a Cessna 180 from Europe, across Africa and on to Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 1958 they flew to Alaska to produce film for his father’s TV show High Adventure. Settling in Anchorage, Lowell Jr. traveled the world for Cinerama, arranging aerial shots from the nose of a B-25. 

Lowell Jr. served 12 years in the Alaska state senate, and in 1974 was elected lieutenant governor. After leaving office he bought the Talkeetna Air Taxi Service and ran it for 15 years, flying climbers and skiers onto the slopes of Denali. His books include Out of This World: Across the Himalayas to Forbidden Tibet (1949) with an accompanying film released in 1952; The Silent War in Tibet (1959); and with Tay, Our Flight to Adventure (1956). 

Tay Thomas died in 2014. Lowell Jr. is survived by his daughter Anne Donaghy, a son, David, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Leave a comment


If you would like to leave a comment or remark, please login to your subscriber account.