Margaret Thatcher had character such that “even her enemies thought she was decisive and acted on principle,” a former East Tennessee State University history professor said Monday.
Colin Baxter, a professor emeritus of history at ETSU who immigrated from the United Kingdom in 1957 at age 15, said he was saddened by Thatcher’s death Monday morning.
Known as the Iron Lady, Thatcher ruled the United Kingdom as prime minister from 1979 until 1990.
Thatcher died of a stroke. She was 87.
“I was a great supporter of Margaret Thatcher,” Baxter said, acknowledging she was a controversial figure and adding that most great leaders are. “I thought she did things that needed to be done and, of course, she was a good friend of Ronald Reagan’s.”
Baxter pointed out that Thatcher was the first female leader in the Anglo-American world and “showed that she certainly had the courage of any man.”
Thatcher, Baxter said, tried to strengthen the middle class.
“One thing that I remember well was how she gave people who lived in public housing the opportunity to buy their own homes,” he said. “I think that was very important.
“She tried to reform a number of institutions, and whenever you’re a reformer you’re going to step on toes. That’s what happens. I know labor unions weren’t always happy with her, but neither was big business always happy with her. That tells you something, when you upset both sides. You must be doing something right.”
Baxter said Thatcher was a staunch opponent of the Soviet Union. This firm stance against communism led to her nickname, Iron Lady.
“A lot of people thought that communism would last forever and seemed to be satisfied with that situation, and she wasn’t,” he said. “And I don’t think, of course, the people in Eastern Europe were satisfied with it. I think that people in countries that are struggling for freedom, they need inspiration and encouragement, and they got it from Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.”
Thatcher’s resolve is still being felt today, Baxter said.
“I think whenever people, particularly in the west, need to take a firm stand, they can look to her for some inspiration,” he said. “I think it would certainly pay present politicians to pay more attention to Margaret Thatcher.”