Viewers of the long-running police and legal drama TV series “Law & Order” are perhaps wondering why Fred Thompson can portray the character of Manhatan District Attorney Arthur Branch with such flair and uncanny realism. That is because this actor and radio host is first and foremost a seasoned lawyer, an experienced lobbyist, columnist and a veteran politician who had served as a Republican U.S. Senator from Tennessee for almost a decade.
Born Freddie Dalton Thompson on 19 August 1942 in Sheffield, Alabama, he shortened his name to Fred when he was admitted to the Tennessee State Bar in 1967. After graduating from Lawrence County High School, he worked during the day in the local post office and at the Murray bicycle assembly plant at night. Later, he enrolled at the University of North Alabama and transferred to the University of Memphis, where he earned double degrees in political science and philosophy in 1964. After college, Fred Thompson went to law school on a scholarship at the prestigious Tulane University, after which he proceeded to Vanderbilt University for his Professional Doctorate Degree in Law in 1967.
Fred Thompson started his legal career in 1969 working as an assistant U.S. Attorney and prosecuted bank robberies and other crimes. In 1972, he became campaign manager for the 1972 reelection campaign of Republican Senator Howard Baker and served as Senate Watergate Committee minority counsel in its investigation of the Watergate scandal wherein he is credited for helping frame critical questions in the hearings that led to President Richard Nixon’s downfall.
In 1977, Fred Thompson successfully represented former Tennessee Parole Board chair Marie Ragghianti’s wrongful termination suit against Democratic Governor Ray Blanton’s office. Fred helped exposed during the trial the cash-for-clemency scheme that led to Governor Blanton’s removal from office. Ten years later, Fred would be portraying himself in the movie “Marie,” which is about the court saga of Marie Ragghianti. He would later appear in a large number of movies and TV shows, oftentimes portraying characters who personify governmental power.
Fred Thompson was elected in 1994 to finish the unexpired Senate term of of Al Gore. He was reelected to the U.S. Senate two years later for the term ending 2003 defeating Democratic Houston Gordon. In 2007, Fred declared his intention to run in the Presidential race, but later withdrew after his lackluster performance in the Republican primaries, and indorsed instead the presidential bid of Republican John McCain.
In 2009, this veteran actor and politician took over Westwood One’s east coast noon time slot hosting the talk radio program “The Fred Thompson Show” after Bill O’Reilly ended the “Radio Factor.”