Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, who straddled the worlds of Hollywood and Washington during a long career in the public eye, has died of lymphoma at 73.
“It is with a heavy heart and a deep sense of grief that we share the passing of our brother, husband, father, and grandfather who died peacefully in Nashville surrounded by his family,” said a statement from Thompson’s family. It continued:
“Fred once said that the experiences he had growing up in small-town Tennessee formed the prism through which he viewed the world and shaped the way he dealt with life. Fred stood on principle and common sense, and had a deep love for and connection with the people across Tennessee whom he had the privilege to serve in the United States Senate. He enjoyed a hearty laugh, a strong handshake, a good cigar, and a healthy dose of humility. Fred was the same man on the floor of the Senate, the movie studio, or the town square of Lawrenceburg, his home.
“Fred believed that the greatness of our nation was defined by the hard work, faith, and honesty of its people. He had an enduring belief in the exceptionalism of our country, and that America could provide the opportunity for any boy or girl, in any corner of our country, to succeed in life. ”
A lawyer and former assistant U.S. attorney, the Alabama-born Thompson attended Vanderbilt Law School and went on to a long career in government, serving as minority counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee.
In 1994, he was elected to fill out the term of Al Gore, who had resigned as U.S. senator from Tennessee to become vice president. He was re-elected by a healthy margin but decided not to run again. In 2007, he briefly ran for president.
In a statement issued Sunday, former U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander said “very few people can light up the room the way Fred Thompson did.”
“He used his magic as a lawyer, actor, Watergate counsel, and United States senator to become one of our country’s most principled and effective public servants. He was my friend for nearly 50 years. I will miss him greatly. Honey and I and our entire family send our love and sympathy to Jeri and the Thompson family.”
In 1985, Thompson played himself in the film “Marie,” which was based on a Tennessee political scandal. The reviews were good, and the movie led to a long career in movies such as “Days of Thunder” and “The Hunt for Red October.”
At 6-foot-6, Thompson had an air of lawyerly gravitas and an easy drawl that made him a familiar, likeable presence in numerous television roles. He was the only actor ever to appear simultaneously on two Law and Order series, playing District Attorney Arthur Branch.