Larry Thompson, who was second in command at the Justice Department under former Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, has broad experience in law enforcement but never served as a judge and never produced a paper trail of scholarly articles or opinions.

If chosen by Bush and confirmed by the Senate, Thompson, 59, the son of a railroad laborer from Hannibal, Mo., would be the second black justice on the high court, alongside his longtime friend, Justice Clarence Thomas.

As a government lawyer, Thompson worked on anti-terrorism policies and cracking down on corporate crime. The conservative Republican is vice president and general counsel for PepsiCo. But President Bush hinted last April that he had future plans for Thompson when he declared at an event in Buffalo that "Larry, we miss you. . . . Don't get too comfortable."

A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, Thompson spent 16 years as a white-collar defense attorney and law instructor before joining the Justice Department. From 1982 to 1986, he served as U.S. attorney for the northern District of Georgia and led the Southeastern Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

He later joined one of Atlanta's most prestigious law firms, King & Spalding, and represented Thomas in 1991 during his bitter Supreme Court confirmation battle.

-- Eric Pianin