» This Story:Read +|Watch +|Talk +| Comments

Bigger Than Life

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 12, 2007; Page A18

Freddie Thompson hit full height in the 10th grade, some 6 feet, 5 3/4 inches. His buddies called him "Stick." He was a nice-looking kid, played football and basketball, chased girls, horsed around in class, rarely cracked a book.

"Basically, just a carefree, underachieving kid," he says today. "Pretty good kid. Never gotten in trouble or anything like that. But didn't care much about my studies." Years ago, he put it a different way in an interview with The Washington Post: "I was interested in two things -- and sports was one of them."

Fred Thompson
Fred Thompson in his high school football uniform.
Discussion Policy
Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

He must have had something going for him, because he caught the eye of Sarah Lindsey. Freddie was smitten. She was a year older, a pretty brunette, smart, bookish and on her way to becoming salutatorian at Lawrenceburg High School in Lawrenceburg, Tenn. She planned to study English at Vanderbilt University. The Lindseys were pillars of the community, a clan that peopled the important jobs such as mayor and lawyer and county administrator. They owned a business manufacturing church pews.

The Thompsons were a rung down on the social ladder. Freddie's parents, Fletcher and Ruth, had grown up on farms during the Depression, and neither had made it beyond the eighth grade. They lived at the edge of town in a one-story house on a hillside that plunged to a creek. Fletcher sold cars for a living, on Route 43, and did it well, selling to the same folks again and again, eventually opening his own used-car lot. Freddie admired his father's manner, how he could be at ease with anybody, whether it was a guy who didn't have two nickels to rub together or the governor passing through town on a campaign stop. Fletcher Thompson was a serious man, but always good for a joke. "He saw the humor and the tragedy of life," Thompson says.

Ruth, a devout church lady, ushered her two boys to the First Street Church of Christ three times a week. "Every night, Mama put supper on the table at 6 o'clock. If Dad wasn't walking in, it would be 30 seconds before he did."

Life had structure, rules, things you could

count on.

That was the backdrop when Freddie, age 16, learned that Sarah was pregnant.

* * *

There are presidential candidates who are congenitally ambitious, having started campaigning for votes shortly after leaving the womb. There are other candidates for whom being presidential timber is a birthright, something inherited, along with a famous name and a jaw line and maybe a beachfront compound.

Then there's someone like Thompson -- a reluctant candidate, not terribly interested in stumping, slow to enter the race and so laid-back that he declines to take a wide-open shot at an opponent during a televised debate.

CONTINUED     1                 >

» This Story:Read +|Watch +|Talk +| Comments

More in the Politics Section

Campaign Finance -- Presidential Race

2008 Fundraising

See who is giving to the '08 presidential candidates.

Latest Politics Blog Updates

© 2007 The Washington Post Company