Fred Thompson: Biography

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This article is part of the
SourceWatch and Congresspedia coverage
of Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) and
the 2008 presidential election
Main article:

Fred Thompson is a former U.S. senator, lobbyist and actor and is a Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency.


Presidential campaign

Main article: U.S. presidential election, 2008

Record and controversies

Senate career

In 1994, Fred Thompson was elected to finish the remaining two years of Vice-President Al Gore's unexpired term in the U.S. Senate. He easily defeated longtime Nashville Rep. Jim Cooper (D) in a landslide victory. Thompson was re-elected in 1996, defeating Democratic attorney Houston Gordon. While in the Senate, Thompson served as the chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs from 1997 to 2001. In 1997, Thompson conducted unfruitful investigations of both the Clinton-Gore campaign and GOP campaign fund-raising activities.[1]

Thompson voted in favor of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill, as well as the Shays-Meehan bill restricting issue ads.[2]

Main article: Campaign Finance

After the Senate

Thompson did not seek re-election in 2002. He had publicly stated his unwillingness to have the Senate become a long-term career.[3]

In March 2003, Thompson was featured in a commercial by the conservative group Citizens United that advocated the Iraq War, stating "When people ask what has Saddam done to us, I ask, what had the 9/11 hijackers done to us -- before 9/11."[4]

In 2006, he served on the advisory board of the legal defense fund for Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was indicted and later convicted of lying to federal investigators during their investigation of a high-level leak of a covert CIA operative, Valerie Plame.[5] After Libby was convicted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, Thompson publicly supported a presidential pardon for him.[6] In response to this, Mark Kleiman of The Huffington Post blog stated "Fred Thompson hasn't been a real prosecutor for 35 years, but he plays one on TV. You might think he'd be careful about slandering a real prosecutors' prosecutor on behalf of a convicted perjurer. But you'd be wrong."[7] Kleiman continued that "Thompson's real vulnerability is going to come from his May 12, 2007 speech to the Council for National Policy, which Fitzgerald's sentencing memorandum in the Libby case shows to be a mostly a pack of lies."


Early life

Thompson was born in Sheffield, Alabama to Ruth Bradley and Fletcher Thompson. He attended the public schools in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. In 1959, at the age of 17, he married Sarah Elizabeth Lindsey.[8]

Thompson first attended Florence State College and then Memphis State University where he earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy and political science in 1964. At this time, Fred and Sarah Thompson both worked to put Thompson through Vanderbilt and support three children. Thompson went on to earn his J.D. degree from Vanderbilt University Law School in 1967.[9]


Thompson was admitted to the State Bar of Tennessee in 1967 and worked as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1969 to 1972. He was the campaign manager for Republican Sen. Howard Baker's (Tenn.) successful re-election campaign in 1972. He later served as co-chief counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee in its investigation of the Watergate scandal (1973–1974).[10]

In 1977, Thompson took on a Tennessee Parole Board case that ultimately toppled Democratic Tennessee Gov. Ray Blanton from power on charges of selling pardons.[11]

Around this time, Thompson began a career as a Washington lobbyist (see above).

Character actor

The 1977 Ray Blanton-Tennessee Parole Board scandal later became the subject of a 1983 book, Marie, by Peter Maas. Director Roger Donaldson bought the film rights and traveled to Nashville to speak with the people involved with the original case. After meeting with Thompson, Donaldson asked Thompson if he wanted to play himself in the movie; Thompson agreed. The resulting film, Marie, was released in 1985. Thompson would go on to appear in many films and television shows, including Wiseguy, The Hunt for Red October, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Days of Thunder, Cape Fear and In the Line of Fire.[12][13]

In the final months of his U.S. Senate term in 2002, Thompson joined the cast of the long-running NBC series Law & Order.[14]


In an April 2007 interview on Your World with Neil Cavuto on Fox News, Thompson declared that he has non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a treatable, but incurable form of cancer. He stated, "I have had no illness from it, or even any symptoms. My life expectancy should not be affected. I am in remission, and it is very treatable with drugs if treatment is needed in the future — and with no debilitating side effects."[15]



  1. John Fund, "Lights, Camera ... Candidacy?," Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2007.
  2. OntheIssues: Fred Thompson
  3. John Fund, "Lights, Camera ... Candidacy?," Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2007.
  4. "Interview with Mike Boos of Citizens United," CNN, March 1, 2003.
  5. Scott Shane, "Media Censors for the Jury Let a Style Item Get Through," New York Times, February 9, 2007.
  6. "Fred Thompson's Bid for President,", 2007.
  7. Mark Kleiman "Fred Thompson and Scooter Libby: Ooops!," The Huffington Post, May 30, 2007.
  8. Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress
  9. Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress
  10. Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress
  11. Lila Holland, "Fred Thompson returns to politics,", July 6, 2005.
  12. Stephen F. Hayes, "From the Courthouse to the White House," Weekly Standard, April 23, 2007.
  13. Rick Bragg, "Grits and Glitter Campaign Helps Actor Who Played a Senator Become One," New York Times, November 12, 1994.
  14. "Fred Thompson Quits 'Law & Order,' Moves Closer to 2008 White House Bid," Fox News, May 31, 2007.
  15. "Former Senator Fred Thompson in Remission for Lymphoma," Fox News, April 11, 2007.

External links


External articles

Wikipedia also has an article on Fred Thompson: Biography. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.