The Slatest

Former Senator, Law & Order Actor Fred Thompson Dies

Former US senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee acknowledges the crowd during the Republican National Convention at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, on September 2, 2008.  

Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Former Senator Fred Thompson, who straddled the worlds of Hollywood and Washington, died Sunday at age 73.First diagnosed with cancer in 2004, Thompson died after a recurrence of lymphoma. “It is with a heavy heart and a deep sense of grief that we share the passing of our brother, husband, father, and grandfather who died peacefully in Nashville surrounded by his family,” the Thompson family said in a statement, according to the Tennessean.

The towering Thompson, who clocked in at 6-foot-6, was not one for doing anything small. As an attorney he was minority legal counsel for the special Senate Watergate Committee. He is widely credited with helping longtime Tennessee Republican Senator Howard Baker frame the question that for many came to define the investigation: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”

Thompson then went on to Hollywood and starred in several important movies and television series. He appeared in at least 20 films, including In the Line of Fire, the Hunt for Red October, and Cape Fear. But acting out roles seemed to have bored Thompson, who decided to go back into politics in the early 1990s. He was elected to the Senate in 1994 and served for two terms before going back to Hollywood. He went from being a professional prosecutor to playing a district attorney on NBC’s Law & Order in the role of Arthur Branch.

He apparently got bored of Hollywood yet again and joined the presidential race to much fanfare in September 2007. He dropped out a few months later when he didn’t manage to garner much support.

“From the courtroom to Capitol Hill to Hollywood, his larger than life personality was infectious and had a way of making all of those around him strive to be better,” said Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker. “Through his many different roles in public life, Fred never forgot where he came from, and our state and country miss his common sense approach to public service.”