A groundbreaking ceremony for the new courthouse in Nashville was held Sept. 28.
A native of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, Thompson served as an assistant U.S. attorney and then as minority counsel for the Senate’s Watergate Committee after earning his law degree from Vanderbilt. He also had a successful career as an actor in films and television. He was elected to represent Tennessee in the Senate after winning a special election in 1994. He was re-elected to a full term in 1996 and served until 2003, when Alexander succeeded him.
Thompson famously represented whistleblower Marie Ragghianti (BA’75, MS’78), who was fired from her position as chair of the Tennessee Parole Board after refusing to release felons who had paid bribes to aides of Tennessee Gov. Ray Blanton in exchange for clemency. Before he left office, Blanton pardoned hundreds of convicted felons. Thompson filed a wrongful termination suit on Ragghianti’s behalf, which resulted in an award of back pay and an offer of reinstatement. Thompson began his acting career by playing himself in the 1985 movie Marie, which told the story of how Ragghianti’s actions led to a federal investigation that resulted in the convictions of Blanton and two aides.
Congress approved Alexander’s request for funding for a new courthouse in 2015, and it is slated for completion by 2021.