This blog was written by Graduate Assistant Scott Anderson, who is working with the Clark Thompson papers.
In the fall of 2015, the Poage Library acquired the papers of Clark Wallace Thompson III, a former eleven-term Representative of Texas, from the Baylor University Texas Collection, making Thompson the thirteenth legislator to join our collections!
Clark Thompson was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 1896, but when he was five years old, his family moved to Oregon. Upon graduation from high school, Thompson studied at the University of Oregon from 1915 until 1917, when he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps during World War I. While stationed at Fort Crockett in Galveston, Texas, Clark fell in love with Libbie Moody, whom he married in November of 1918. Libbie was the daughter of the financial magnate William Lewis Moody, Jr., whose family foundation funded the Moody Library here at Baylor. Clark and Libbie were married for 63 years and had two children.
After the war, Clark Thompson was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve, where he served until 1946. During this extended service, he was called up for action in WWII, where he served as the oldest officer in the Southwestern Pacific Theater. In 1943, he was recalled to Washington, D.C. to become the director of the Marine Reserves, which he held until his retirement from the military at the rank of colonel.
During peacetime, Clark Thompson worked and lived in Galveston, Texas. After a short stint as treasurer to the American National Insurance Company, Thompson opened a mercantile firm and joined a development company during the Roaring Twenties. After the death of Clay Stone Briggs—the sitting U.S. Representative for the Texas 7th District—in 1933, Thompson’s interest in national defense compelled him to seek and win the special election for the seat as a Democrat. As a member of Congress, his efforts in Congress to strengthen the military were widely recognized, but after one term, Thompson was re-districted out of his seat. Rather than contest for his position in a new district, he chose to step down to serve as the public relations counsel for the Moody Foundation.
In 1946, the death of sitting U.S. Representative Joseph J. Mansfield triggered Thompson’s re-entry into politics. Thompson won the 9th District both in the 1947 election and in the nine subsequent elections, holding the position for nearly two decades (until his retirement in 1966 to become a legislative consultant and oil company representative). In Washington, Thompson was a member of the Agricultural, Maritime and Fisheries, and Ways and Means Committees, and his work was important for bridging the different party factions of the Democratic Party.
Outside of Thompson’s work in the military, politics, and business, he maintained an involvement in his local community as a Chamber of Commerce president, thirty-second-degree Mason, and member of the American Legion, Shriners, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Texas State Society, and Episcopalian Church. He and his wife were also fixtures on the Washington, D.C., social scene during the 1950s and 1960s, to the extent that their home was known as the “Texas Embassy” or “Texas Legation.”
Long before Thompson’s death in Galveston in 1981, his papers were donated to the Baylor University Library system as a part of the Texas Collection in 1966. Subsequent to the Poage Library’s acquisition of the papers in the fall of 2015, the papers are undergoing re-processing by the Poage Library staff for use by future legislative researchers. We look forward to re-opening them to the public soon!
Baylor University. “Baylor Libraries Receive $100,000 Moody Foundation Grant for Upgrades to Moody Memorial Library.” (accessed October 16, 2017).
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. “Thompson, Clark Wallace.” (accessed October 16, 2017).
Texas State Historical Association. “Moody, William Lewis, Jr.” (accessed October 16, 2017).
Texas State Historical Association. “Thompson, Clark Wallace.” (accessed October 16, 2017).
Washington Post. “Clark W. Thompson.” (accessed October 16, 2017).