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Thompson, William, Hon.

Posted by ceddleman 
Thompson, William, Hon.
February 24, 2007 09:37PM
The Times of Long Ago, Barren County, Kentucky. By Franklin Gorin. John P.
Morton & Company Incorporated, 1929. Published originally in the Glasgow
Weekly Times, 1870's. pp. 112-114.

LIFE OF HON. WM. THOMPSON. Wm. Thompson, who obtained the name of the
honest lawyer, came to Glasgow in 1811, and lived in the family of John
Gorin until his marriage with Miss Caroline Kerr, daughter of the Rev. John
Kerr, about the year 1815-16. They were married at the residence of her
father in Glasgow.
We do not know when or where he was born, but suppose in Virginia; neither
are we informed where he obtained his education, but believe in Mercer and
Fayette counties in this State. As there were many able lawyers in
Kentucky before 1810, he no doubt had the advantage of studying law under
one of them.
He commenced practicing his profession in Vevay, Ind., but remained there
only a short time, and then returned to his family in Mercer County. His
family, the Thompsons, was one of the most respectable and wealthy in the
county, and many of them distinguished themselves as lawyers and statesmen.
Those that filled high offices in Kentucky were George C. Thompson, twice
Speaker in the House of Representatives. John B. Thompson, the elder, a
member of the House of Representatives. George Thompson, a member of the
Legislature. John B. Thompson, the younger, in the House of
Representatives, a Senator in U. S. Congress, and Lieutenant Governor.
Philip Thompson, in Congress, a member of the Legislature, and in the war
of 1812. Wm. Thompson was also a volunteer under Gen. Forbes from Glasgow
in Hopkins campaign of 1812, and in 1815 was a member of the Legislature in
the House of Representatives, from Barren County. Soon after he came to
this county, he obtained a lucrative practice and soon stood at the head of
the Barren County bar. His circuit was a very large one; it extended to
Christian, including Logan and Warren counties, and embraced Cumberland,
Adair, Green, Hart, Allen and Monroe Counties.
He had almost the whole of the foreign collecting business of his circuit,
from 1818 to 1823, which business was immense.
In 1816-17 he was induced by motives unknown (it certainly could not have
been avarice, he was above such an ignoble passion), to engage in
merchandising. He was unfit every way for the business, he knew nothing
about it, and was too confiding and liberal.
It soon, in 1817, proved ruinous to him in a pecuniary point of view. He
gave no attention to the store and could not on account of his practice as
a lawyer, as when he learned it was a moth eating him up, he sold his stock
for two-thirds of its cost, leaving him laragely behind. His wife and
children having died, he determined to remove to Nashville, and by his
practice to relieve himself. He opened an office, and immediately rose to
distinction. His character for honesty and integrity gave him unlimited
credit; and the purse strings of the shavers and shylocks were opened to
him freely. The consequence was, in the midst of a large and lucrative
practice, he engaged in speculation in city property, his motive being to
enable friends in Glasgow, who had been ruined by endorsement for him to
regain their property, which had been taken to pay his debts.
One day when all thought he was acquiring a large fortune rapidly, to
their astonishment, there was a circular distributed over the city of
Nashville, requesting his creditors to meet him at the Court House the next
day to hear an explanation of his affairs.
The Court House was crowded to its fullest extent. Many going out of
curiosity, and some out of sympathy. He laid before the crowd the state of
his affairs, showing a lamentable state of things, and gave up everything
he possessed to his creditors.
Every effort which he made to extricate himself from the debt only
increased his embarrassment, and he learned, when too late, the folly of a
lawyer engaging in any business outside of his profession.
He had married after he went to Nashville, Mrs. Vance, a rich widow. A
marriage contract secured to her and her children her whole property. She
had children by her first husband, who were wealthy, and several by
Thompson, one of whom married Eugene Understood [sic - Underwood], a son of
J. R. Underwood, Esq. In 1837 he moved to Jackson, Miss., temporarily,
leaving his family in Nashville. There was a fine opening there in the
collection business and he took a high stand at the bar and made money, but
failed to extricate himself. After the harvest was over he returned to
Nashville, but found it difficult to resume his former position and removed
to Memphis, but on account of age and embarrassments he failed to succeed.
He died there about 1858 or '59. He was a good and learned lawyer,
industrious and energetic, and a student. When business would give him an
hour he was social, free and frank. He never fooled an hour away. He was
proverbial for his honesty as a citizen and a lawyer, hence he was called
"Wm. Thompson, the honest lawyer."
He was moral, and strictly temperate in all things. He did not swear or
use profane language; he was candid, and his word never doubted.
In manners he was bland and courteous, and a sweet smile always played
upon his face. He was eloquent and powerful before the court or jury. His
eloquence was not like Clay's, Crittendon's, Barry's. It was of a soft,
smooth character; it was not thrilled, it was not - but it is difficult to
say what it was not, or what it was; every gesture, every tone, every word
told. It came from a sincere, honest head and heart.
There was not sacrifice, except honesty and truth, too great in order to
comply with his promise. His property, everything but honor, was
surrendered to meet a demand which he promised to meet. He was liberal,
kind, generous and honest.
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