Fred Thompson was one of those men you hoped would live to 120, because a shorter lifespan wasn’t enough for such a fountain of energy, wit and wisdom. It would have been easy for Fred to slide gracefully into the world of gaudy Hollywood pretension – he certainly left his mark on Hollywood — but that really did not interest him. During his first round with lymphoma, Fred was busy rehearsing for a Broadway show, something he had not done before, and although the play was not a great success, it gave him enormous pleasure. One more arrow in his quiver of accomplishments.
Once he discovered he was an ambitious guy at age 17, he charged happily through life, in the courtroom, in the Senate, on TV, in movies, and with a wonderful family to boot. His sense of humor was legendary for good reason; few shared his ability to laugh at his own foibles and errors. Like most of us, he made lots of mistakes and so he had many happy moments laughing at them.
Washington will remember his failed presidential campaign, but I never thought of it as a failure. I always thought that the White House sounded like great fun for a while, but once he realized that he would have to spend many long days in Iowa snowstorms, he thought better of the whole thing and entrusted his campaign to the political gods who sometimes reward sensible candidates instead of those with burning bellies.
He had such a wealth of experience and such a sharp mind that an evening with Fred invariably produced insights that you couldn’t find anywhere else. No wonder he was the only American who could successfully take the place of Paul Harvey on the radio!
A hell of a guy, what we used to call a “real American,” a patriot to the core, a fine father and husband, a great friend. Rare indeed.
Maybe I’ll get one of those reverse mortgages in his memory.