Fred Thompson passed away this past weekend at the young age of 73. He was a man of service. His service to his country and community is what ultimately led Thompson to his second career, acting.
He was born August 19, 1942 in Sheffield, Alabama. When he was a young boy, his family moved to Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.
Thompson graduated from law school and was admitted to the Tennessee State Bar in 1967. From 1969 to 1972, Thompson worked as an assistant U.S. attorney. His entrance to the political arena occurred in 1972 where Thompson worked as the campaign manager for Republican Senator Howard Baker’s reelection campaign. He then acted as minority counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee during the investigation into the Watergate scandal.
In 1977, Thompson took on a case that would ultimately lead him into his acting career. He represented Marie Ragghianti, Tennessee Parole Board chair, who was fired from her position for refusing to release convicted felons. The felons had bribed Governor Ray Blanton’s aides for their release. Thompson took the case and filed a wrongful termination suit against the Governor. During the trial, Thompson exposed the corruption. Governor Blanton was removed from office and a jury ordered that Raghiannti be reinstated and given $38,000 in back pay.
The Raghiannti case became the subject of a 1983 book. The rights to the book were purchased and turned into a film. The director, Roger Donaldson approached Thompson to play himself in the film. He had such a presence onscreen that he was offered a role in Donaldson’s next film. He would go on to take on roles in The Hunt For Red October, Die Hard 2, and Days Of Thunder.
While his career branched out to include acting, Thompson had his sights set on a higher path. In 1994, Thompson was elected to serve the remaining years of Al Gore’s Senate seat that he left behind. Thompson successfully won his reelection bid in 1996 with over 60% of the vote. He served in the Senate until 2003.
Near the end of his time in the Senate, Thompson signed on to play District Attorney Arthur Branch in the hit NBC series Law & Order. He remained in that role for 5 seasons.
In 2007, Thompson launched a short-lived campaign for President of the United States. After the bid, Thompson returned to acting. He also hosted his own radio program and was a part time columnist.
Thompson lost his battle with Lymphoma this past Sunday, November 1st in Nashville while surrounded by his loving family. He will be sorely missed.