Actor, attorney, former U.S. Senator and one-time GOP presidential hopeful Fred Thompson has passed away following a recurrence of lymphoma. He was 73.
Thompson first came to national fame during the Watergate hearings in 1973 after he learned the existence of President Nixon’s White House tapes. The existence of these tapes was confirmed when Thompson asked Nixon White House aide Alexander Butterfield about them and Butterfield confirmed their existence.
After the Watergate hearings, Thompson was primarily a lobbyist but would add another career. Acting came about quite by happenstance. In the late 1970’s, Thompson represented Marie Ragghianti who had been removed as Chair of the Tennessee Board of Pardons and Paroles for refusing to release prisoners who had bribed aides to the state’s Democratic Governor Ray Blanton. Ragghianti filed a wrongful termination suit and retained Thompson as her attorney. The case would eventually result in Blanton’s removal from office. The Ragghianti case would eventually become a film and Thompson was cast to play himself. He would win excellent reviews and the performance would lead to roles in films like No Way Out, The Hunt for Red October and Die Hard 2.
Thompson sought elected office and during the Republican Revolution of 1994 would be elected to the Senate (to finish Al Gore’s term) and then elected again in 1996 to his own six-year term. Thompson did not run in 2002 electing to join the cast of Law & Order as District Attorney Arthur Branch although he was still a sitting Senator at the time. In addition to Law & Order, Thompson also appeared as Branch in Law & Order:SVU, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: Trial by Jury & Conviction.
Thompson would leave L&O in 2007 so he could seek the GOP nomination for the White House. However, his presidential campaign never caught fire and would withdraw shortly after the South Carolina primary.
Thompson continued to appear in TV commercials, talk shows and write political commentary.
I leave you with some of Thompson’s finest moments on the silver screen.