Thompson, Richard W.

Born: 1809-06-09 Culpeper County, Virginia

Died: 1900-02-09 Terre Haute, Indiana

Thompson moved to Bedford, Indiana, in 1831 and worked as a schoolteacher and store clerk while studying law. After starting his own practice, he won election to the Indiana House of Representatives in 1834, where he served for two terms before earning a seat in the Indiana Senate in 1836. The governor also gave Thompson an honorary militia appointment as a colonel during this time, and he was thereafter typically known as "Colonel Dick Thompson." He was instrumental in forming the Indiana Whig Party but did not run for a second state senate term. In 1836, he married Harriet Eliza Gardiner, with whom he had eight children. Voters selected Thompson for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1841, but he only served for one term. He returned to Congress in 1847, where he opposed the Mexican War and again remained for a single term only. His legal practice became highly successful, and Thompson joined the Know-Nothing movement after the collapse of the Whigs. He served as a delegate to the 1854 American Party convention. However, unlike many other members of the movement, Thompson did not join the Republican Party in 1856 and became a founding member of the Constitutional Union Party in 1860. He vocally supported John Bell for president but secretly worked with Abraham Lincoln to prevent a Democratic victory. The Civil War motivated Thompson to finally join the Republicans, and he earned a commission as a provost marshal.

Tyler Anbinder, "Thompson, Richard Wigginton," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 21:573-74.