Discover your family's story.
Enter a grandparent's name to get started.
This promising and popular young lawyer was born in Smith County, Texas, November 19, 1866, the son of James Franklin Thompson, of Scotch-Irish parentage, and one-sixteenth Cherokee. His mother was Miss Callie E. McCord, of South Carolina, and whose family are to-day influential and wealthy landed proprietors in the northern part of Scotland. When but three years old, William moved with his parents to Beattie’s Prairie, Delaware District, Cherokee Nation, from Smith County, Texas, and there attended the public schools until he was fifteen years of age. In February 1882, he entered the Male Seminary, and in 1884 took the degree of B. S., at the age of seventeen. He then received the appointment of teacher at Oak Grove, in the Going Snake district, and taught for one year. In September 1885, he entered the Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, and attended the literary department for three years, acquiring a substantial knowledge of the modern languages and classics. In 1888 he became a law student, entering that department and graduating in June 1889. Thus the subject of our sketch completed a two-year course, obtaining his degree of LL. B., in nine months’ time. William’s father dying while his son was but eight years of age, he was, therefore, thrown upon his own resources in boyhood, and for this reason is deserving of great credit for completing his own education. In the summer of 1889 Mr. Thompson was admitted to the Tennessee Bar, and, immediately afterward, to the practice in the United States Courts at Muskogee, Creek Nation. In the same year he was elected clerk of the Lower House of the Cherokee Legislature and served two terms, until November, 1891, when he was elected clerk of the Senate, serving but seventeen days until he resigned to assume the position of secretary of the treasury, at a salary of $1,500 per year. Early in the campaign of 1891 Mr. Thompson was called upon by the Mayes men to assume the charge of the Indian Sentinel, the organ of the Downing party. It was then that the subject of this sketch first exhibited his characteristic qualities, combining the elements of a first-class journalist with the tact and shrewdness of a thorough statesman. Incalculatable was the influence brought to bear throughout this canvass by the Sentinel and its fearless editor, who, laying aside all personal risk, “hewed to the line,” until the chips almost completely covered or obscured some members of the opposite faction. Mr. Thompson was the first who ever brought about a joint canvass of the country, the various candidates meeting and expressing their opinions upon the issues of the day. At the close of the campaign Mr. Thompson resigned his editorial seat on the Sentinel and returned to his law practice, in conjunction with Messrs. Hastings and Boudinot. With the former he has been in partnership since July 1890, and with the latter since November 1890. His connection with Mr. Hastings (now attorney-general) dates from there school days to the present, having been playmates, scholars, teachers, and now, law partners. And it may be well said of the firm of Thompson, Boudinot & Hastings, that none stand higher in the Cherokee Nation, while few can boast of an equal reputation. Mr. Thompson’s practice, as a third partner, reaches to $2,000, or thereabouts, his work extending to the United States Courts of Fort Smith and Muskogee, and the Supreme, Circuit and District Courts of the Cherokee Nation. Mr. Thompson, while at college, distinguished himself as a debater and a fluent speaker, as well as a good essayist, and there are few in his country who can equal him in these acquirements. He is owner of a farm of 200 acres in cultivation, in the Delaware District, which is well stocked, while he has also a quantity of timbered land. His yearly income at present represents $4,000, which is unusually large for a young man his age. To briefly sum up the characteristics of our subject, Mr. Thompson appears before the world as a prepossessing gentleman, with a polished address, genial and friendly in society, while his education is far beyond the average. Beneath all this, however, he possesses a force of character and a spirit of enthusiasm that are destined to overcome great obstacles and render their possessor (with sufficient ambition) an illustrious citizen of his country.