10 Things You Didn't Know About Fred Thompson
Compiled by the U.S. News Library Staff
1. Fred Dalton Thompson was born on Aug.19, 1942, in Sheffield, Ala., and grew up in Lawrenceburg, Tenn. His father, Fletcher, was a car salesman. When Fred was a teenager, his father made an unsuccessful run for county sheriffone of his goals was to rid the county of bootleggers.
2. Thompson married his high school sweetheart, Sarah Lindsey, when he was only 17. Sarah's grandfather was a lawyer (and reportedly "one of the few Republicans around there") who sparked Fred's interest in the law.
3. Thompson graduated with a bachelor's degree in philosophy and political science from Memphis State University in 1964. He worked a number of jobs during this time to earn money: in a bicycle factory, at the post office, at a drive-in movie theater, and at his in-laws' church-pew factory. He went on to earn his law degree from Vanderbilt University in 1967. By the time he finished his education, he and Sarah had three children: Tony, Betsy, and Daniel.
4. After finishing law school, Thompson became an assistant U.S. attorney. In 1972, he worked on Sen. Howard Baker's re-election campaign. The following year, when Thompson was 30, Baker (the senior Republican on the Senate Watergate Committee) chose him to serve as minority counsel during the proceedings. Thompson gained national attention for his role in the televised hearings and later wrote a book based on his experiences titled At That Point in Time: The Inside Story of the Senate Watergate Committee.
5. After Watergate, Thompson returned to Tennessee to practice law. During this time, he also worked as a lobbyist.
6. Thompson's acting career began when he played himself in the 1985 film Marie, starring Sissy Spacek. In the movie, based on a real-life "prison pardons for cash" scandal trial, he wore his own clothes and recited actual testimony. He went on to appear in numerous films including No Way Out, The Hunt for Red October, Die Hard 2, Cape Fear, and In the Line of Fire. Since 2002, he has played District Attorney Arthur Branch on TV's Law & Order. Thompson has said, "There always seems to be a part for a man my age who can look mean without trying."
7. When Al Gore vacated his Senate seat in 1994, Thompson won a special election to replace him. He was re-elected in 1996, and in the late 1990s he oversaw the investigations into questionable campaign fundraising. In 2002, his daughter, Betsy, died at age 38. In March of that year, Thompson decided not to seek re-election, citing "other priorities."
8. Thompson's political and acting careers occasionally intersect. In 1995, Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole chose him to deliver the televised Republican response to a Clinton speech. Even though Thompson had been sworn in less than a week earlier, Dole was impressed by his film appearances. Thompson would later help Dole prepare for the 2000 presidential debates by portraying Clinton during rehearsals. He also advised John Roberts in preparation for his Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
9. Thompson and his first wife, Sarah, divorced in 1985. In 2002, he married media consultant Jeri Kehn. The couple's daughter, Hayden, was born in 2003.
10. A 1997 profile in USA Today described him as "a hybrid of good ol' boy and beltway sophisticate. He likes country music, catfish, chewing tobacco, skeet shooting, and Gentleman Jack bourbon. But he also likes fine wine, working out, contemporary jazz, political books, nice cars, and Sunday talk shows."
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (http://bioguide.congress.gov/)
Insight on the News
Memphis Commercial Appeal
National Journal's Congress Daily
New York Times