Fletcher Thompson

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Standish Fletcher Thompson
Fletcher Thompson.jpg
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 5th district
In office
January 3, 1967 – January 3, 1973
Preceded by Charles Weltner
Succeeded by Andrew Young
Member of the Georgia State Senate from District 34 (Fulton County)
In office
January 1965 – January 1967
Preceded by Charlie Brown
Succeeded by W. Armstrong Smith
Personal details
Born (1925-02-05) February 5, 1925 (age 93)
College Park, Fulton County
Georgia, U.S.
Political party Republican
Alma mater

Russell High School
Emory University

Woodrow Wilson College of Law
Occupation Lawyer; Insurance
Military service
Service/branch

United States Army Medical Corps
United States Army Air Corps

United States Air Force
Battles/wars

World War II

Korean War

Standish Fletcher Thompson (born February 5, 1925) is an American lawyer, World War II veteran and Republican politician who served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1967 to 1973 from the 5th Congressional District of Georgia.

Early life[edit]

Thompson was born near Atlanta in College Park in Fulton County, Georgia. He graduated from Russell High School in East Point, Georgia. While at Russell High School, Thompson was the president of the Model Airplane Club.

Military service[edit]

At just 16 years old, after listening to the Infamy Speech delivered by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 8, 1941, Thompson was inspired to enlist as an Aviation Cadet in the U.S. Army. According to the current rules set out by the cadet program, only individuals aged 17 or older with parental consent could join the program. At 17, without his parent's knowledge, Thompson proceeded to take and pass the aviation cadet exam. Despite passing the exam, Thompson was unable to join the cadet program due to his parents' refusal to provide consent. In 1943, on the day of his 18th birthday, Thompson successfully joined the Service but was mistakenly sent to Abiline, Texas to join ranks with the 90th Infantry Division.

Thompson completed Basic Training with the 90th Infantry Division before the mistake was corrected and he was transferred to the Aviation Cadet Training Program in Wichita Falls, Texas. Upon his arrival in Wichita Falls, Thompson had to complete basic training for the second time. Shortly afterward, Thompson finally realized his childhood dream of flying when he trained behind the controls of a Piper Cub in Ada, Oklahoma.

During this time, Thompson qualified highly as both a pilot and as a navigator. Although Thompson wanted to become a fighter pilot, a growing need for Army Air Corps navigators resulted in his assignment as a navigator within the 6th Emergency Air-sea Rescue Squadron. Over the next several years, Thompson would earn seven service stars along with an Asiatic–Pacific Campaign Medal.[1]

On demobilization, he attended the Methodist-affiliated Emory University in Atlanta, from which he graduated in 1949. During the Korean War, Thompson re-enlisted in the United States Air Force as a pilot.

Professional career[edit]

On returning from South Korea, Thompson graduated in 1957 from the now-closed Woodrow Wilson College of Law in Atlanta. The following year he was admitted to the Georgia bar and established a law firm in East Point. He was also president of an aviation insurance firm.

Politics[edit]

Georgia State Senate[edit]

Thompson was a lifelong Republican, not a convert from the Democratic Party as were most Georgian Republicans at the time. In the November 3, 1964 general election, in which Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona became the first Republican presidential nominee to win Georgia's electoral votes, Thompson defeated then senior Democratic State Senator Charlie Brown in District 34.[2] Thompson was one of only four Republican members of the upper chamber of the legislature at the time. He was selected by the Democratic majority to represent Fulton County in the drafting and sponsorship of the Metropolitan Rapid Transit Authority Act.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Two years later, Thompson ran for Congress, becoming the first Republican since the Reconstruction era to represent Atlanta and the 5th Congressional District in the United States House.

On October 3, 1966, about a month before the general election held on November 8, the incumbent representative, Democrat Charles Weltner, after months of campaigning for reelection, withdrew from the race. Weltner said that he could not continue in the race and honor the loyalty oath that all Democratic candidates were required to take, which in this year would have required him to support the party's segregationist gubernatorial nominee, Atlanta businessman Lester Maddox. Weltner's U.S. House colleague, Howard "Bo" Callaway, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, at first expressed "amusement" over the "foolish" Democrat pledge and claimed that Weltner really withdrew from the reelection race because he feared that Thompson, whom Callawy endorsed, would unseat him. The Athens Daily News agreed with Callaway's assessment and emphasized that anti-Maddox black voters at the time had such little experience with ticket-splitting that Thompson would likely prevail. Callaway later withdrew his comment and hailed Weltner's political courage. Weltner refused to support Callaway in the race against Maddox, opting for a write-in campaign on behalf of Maddox's primary opponent, former Governor Ellis Arnall. Weltner termed southern Republicans "Dixiecrats with button-down shirts" and accused Callaway of being a tool of big business.[3]

The Democratic Executive Committee chose Archie Lindsey, then the chairman of the Fulton County Commission, to replace Weltner on the ballot. Lindsey had only three weeks to mount a campaign. Thompson prevailed, 55,423 (60.1 percent) to Lindsey's 36,751 (39.9 percent).[4] Thompson netted some 30 per cent of the black vote. Even so, Thompson benefited from the white backlash against the Civil Rights Movement and the administration of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was highly unpopular among segregationist, blue-collar whites who lived in Atlanta's southern and western neighborhoods.[citation needed]

Thompson was re-elected in 1968, when Weltner, running on the Humphrey-Muskie ticket, sought a comeback. Thompson was again reelected in 1970, when he defeated Andrew Young, who after the next election in 1972 in a revised district succeeded Thompson in the Fifth District.

During his various campaigns, Thompson campaigned not only in majority white precincts but also in predominantly black ones. He also was the principal speaker at the annual convention of the United States Postal Alliance, a union of African-American postal employees.

Thompson's success in winning in a traditionally Democratic district that was by then 40 percent non-white was noted in Time magazine. The publication described Thompson as an "unreconstructed conservative who opposes busing, liberal judges, Jane Fonda in Hanoi, Black Power and gun control." Thompson helped create a rift between the Black community and Black Panther Party in Atlanta. Thompson was quoted by journalist J. Lowell Ware (September 18, 1971), "the Black Panthers should stay in California," and "neither they nor their philosophy are welcome in Atlanta."

Thompson was editorially endorsed by C. A. Scott, a Republican and owner of the Atlanta Daily World, the only daily African-American newspaper in Georgia. He was the first member of Congress from Georgia ever to name African Americans to West Point and the other military academies. He was the first 5th District congressman to employ an African American in his Atlanta office.

U.S. Senate campaign[edit]

In 1972, Thompson ran for the U.S. Senate; he won the Republican primary with little opposition. Sam Nunn defeated David Gambrell in the Democratic primary; Gambrell had been appointed by then Governor Jimmy Carter to succeed the late Richard B. Russell. When President Richard M. Nixon, a Republican, visited Atlanta a month before the general election, he did not endorse Thompson, in keeping with his strategy at the time to maintain alliances with conservative Southern Democrats. Nixon had similarly snubbed Gil Carmichael in Mississippi that year, who was challenging Senator James O. Eastland, and even his former Postmaster General Winton Blount, who fell far short in a challenge to Senator John Sparkman of neighboring Alabama. Democratic Governor Jimmy Carter exploited the snub to declare that Nixon would just as soon have Nunn in the Senate as Thompson, and Nunn endorsed Nixon over the national Democratic nominee George McGovern of South Dakota. "Nixon/Nunn" signs were posted all over Georgia, as were "Wallace/Nunn" in rural areas and "McGovern/Nunn" signs in urban areas.

With limited national Republican support, Thompson lost to Nunn, 362,501 votes (46.5 percent) to 404,890 (52 percent).[5]

Post-political career[edit]

After leaving the U.S. House, Thompson returned to his law firm in Atlanta. In 1985, he was made a member of the Atlanta Regional Commission. From 2009 until 2011, Thompson served as the Commander of the Atlanta World War II Roundtable, an organization that was created in 1986 "to hear and record the war experiences of World War II and to pass on to posterity the knowledge of World War II and the price – human and material – that was paid by our nation for the preservation of freedom in the United States and the world".[6]

In 2017, the 92 year old Thompson endorsed Karen Handel in a special election for the 6th Congressional District, which overlapped with his old Fifth Congressional District.

Thompson resides in Marietta, Georgia.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Short, Bob (Interviewer) (April 6, 2009). Fletcher Thompson, Reflections on Georgia Politics. University of Georgia. 
  2. ^ "Members Of The General Assembly Of Georgia - 1966 Term". State of Georgia. January 11, 1966. Retrieved May 3, 2018. 
  3. ^ Billy Hathorn, "The Frustration of Opportunity: Georgia Republicans and the Election of 1966", Atlanta History: A Journal of Georgia and the South, XXI (Wintger 1987-1988), p. 43
  4. ^ Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, p. 1277
  5. ^ Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, p. 1441
  6. ^ http://www.atlantawwiiroundtable.org/officers.htm


External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Charles Weltner
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 5th congressional district

January 3, 1967 – January 3, 1973
Succeeded by
Andrew Young