OF THE NAVY
was the secretary of the Navy under President Rutherford
B. Hayes and a Whig U.S. congressman from 1841-43 and 1847-49. After
1896, Thompson could boast of having met every president elected in the
He was born in 1809 in Culpeper County, Virginia. He
settled briefly in Kentucky before moving to Indiana, where he taught
school, worked in a grocery store, and studied law at night.
was admitted to the Indiana bar in 1834, the same year he was elected to
the Indiana state House of Representatives as a Whig. He served two
one-year terms in the House before moving to the state senate, where he
remained from 1836 to 1838. By 1840, Thompson had been elected to the
U.S. House of Representatives and stayed for a single two-year term. He
decided not to run again and returned to Indiana, where he resumed his
remained involved in politics, serving as the city attorney for Terre
Haute, Indiana, in 1846 and again in 1847. He returned in 1847 to the
U.S. Congress, where he served for two years in the House. Declining
political appointments from Presidents Zachary Taylor and Millard
Fillmore, Thompson ultimately served as commander of Camp Thompson,
Indiana, during the Civil War and as provost marshal for the district of
Terre Haute from 1861 to 1865. He joined the Republican Party during
that time, and it was as a Republican that he served as President Andrew
Johnsonís appointment to the fifth Indiana Circuit Court. Thompson
remained on the court from 1867 to 1869.
years later, Thompson played a pivotal role in the 1876 election,
suggesting that an electoral commission decide its outcome.
Subsequently, the newly elected President Rutherford B. Hayes tapped
Thompson to serve as his secretary of the Navy, a post Thompson held
from 1877 to 1880, when Hayes named Thompson as the head of the American
Committee of the French Panama Canal Project. After sitting on this
committee, Thompson returned to Indiana, where he died in 1900.