Fred Thompson's Best Moments Show How He Went From Attorney To Actor To Senator

On Sunday, the family of Fred Thompson announced that the actor and politician had died at age 73 after more than a decade battling non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Thompson was in Nashville with his family at the time of his death. Most recently, he worked on a movie called Persecuted, about religious freedom and government, but many of Thompson's best moments took place both on and off screen in his roles as an attorney, an actor, and a politician.

Thompson was born in Sheffield, Alabama, a town with fewer than 10,000 people at the time of the 2010 U.S. census. He spent most of his life living in Tennessee, however, and he received his undergraduate degree from Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis) and his law degree from Vanderbilt University. Thompson was the first member of his family to go to college, but that was just the first of many accomplishments he would achieve during his life.

After graduating from Vanderbilt, Thompson began his career as an attorney. He worked as both a government attorney and a private lawyer, but he also spent much of his career in other industries. He worked as an actor, served as a U.S. senator, and even ran for president. Several big moments gave him the opportunities to jump from career to career — and back again — successfully.



Thompson was a U.S. attorney at the time of then-President Richard Nixon's Watergate investigation in the early 1970s. Thompson served as the Republican counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee. During a hearing, Thompson asked a White House aide about the existence of tapes that had recorded the Oval Office. As it turns out, these tapes would later expose Nixon and lead to his resignation.


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Thompson's career as an attorney actually helped launch his acting career. In 1985, Thompson played himself in a movie called Marie, which followed the real-life story of Marie Ragghianti, a government administrator who blew the whistle on corruption in Tennessee. Thompson defended Ragghianti in her case against the governor's office. Thompson's performance in Marie led to several other roles as a government official or attorney in movies and shows such as The Hunt for Red October and Law & Order.

Election To The U.S. Senate

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In 1994, Thompson launched a campaign to fill then-Vice President Al Gore's vacant Senate seat. He won a landslide victory that year, and he was reelected in 1996 and served as a Republican senator from Tennessee from 1994 until 2003. While a senator, Thompson served as John McCain's campaign co-chairman when McCain ran for president in the 2000 Republican primaries.

Law & Order

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On the small screen, Thompson played New York District Attorney Arthur Branch on Law & Order from 2002 until 2007. On the show, he played a familiar role: a conservative government attorney. He also carried his role over into appearances on Law & Order's other shows, Special Victims Unit and Criminal Intent. Thompson has played similar roles on several TV series, including The Good Wife, but Law & Order is the one for which he is probably best known.

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Thompson made several big moves in the political and entertainment worlds throughout his long and storied career. In 2008, he launched a presidential campaign. Although unsuccessful, Thompson should be remembered as a talented jack-of-all-trades, moving from law to acting to politics and back again in a way that few actors or politicians have been able to accomplish.