Francis Coleman Thompson (born October 29, 1941) is a wealthy developer from Delhi in Richland Parish, Louisiana, USA, from which he served as a senior Democratic member of the Louisiana House of Representatives. He served continuously from 1975 until 2007. Because of state term limits, Thompson was ineligible to have sought a ninth four-year term for the House in the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 20, 2007.
Instead, Thompson was elected outright over two fellow Democrats to the District 34 seat in the Louisiana State Senate vacated by the also term-limited Charles Jones (born 1950) of Monroe. Thompson received 13,763 votes (51 percent) to 10,937 (42 percent) for African-American State Representative Willie Hunter, Jr., of Monroe and 2,113 (8 percent) for Paxton J. Branch. Ten days after he vacated the seat to Thompson, Charles Jones was charged with two counts of making and subscribing a false federal income tax return and one count of tax evasion.
Hunter charged irregularities in the primary election in part on grounds that certain Thompson supporters in heavily black East Carroll Parish distributed food packages to the poor with instructions that they should vote for Francis Thompson to maintain such assistance.
In addition to his own Richland Parish, Thompson's House district included all or portions of East Carroll, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, and West Carroll parishes in northeast Louisiana. His Senate district includes parts of Concordia, East Carroll, Madison, Ouachita, Richland, and Tensas parishes.
Early years and education
Thompson is the third of six children, five surviving, of Clyde Coleman Thompson, Jr., and the former Frances Nolan. He graduated from Delhi High School in 1959. He received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston in Lincoln Parish. He also procured an Ed.D. degree from the University of Louisiana at Monroe (then Northeast Louisiana University). Thompson was a teacher from 1963 to 1965, but he vacated the classroom to become vice president of a manufacturing company from 1965 to 1972. Later, he returned to the classroom as a ULM assistant professor of education.
From 1968 to 1975, Thompson was an elected member of the Richland Parish School Board. He won a special election in 1975 to fill the House seat vacated by the resignation of Democrat Benny Gay Christian, who had served in the state House since 1964. Later in the year, Thompson won a full term in the seat, which in time became the single-member District 19. Prior to his legislative years, Thompson worked in Baton Rouge for the Louisiana Department of Education under Superintendent Louis J. Michot from 1974 to 1975. He was a member of the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement from 1973 to 1974. Thompson is a former member of the Southern Regional Education Board and the Education Commission of the States. He has been active in the Retarded Children's Association and the Louisiana Mental Health Drug Advisory Council. He is a member of the Masonic lodge and the Lions International.
Thompson is married to the former Marilyn Bryant (born October 6, 1944). The couple lives at 456 Robin Hood Lane in Delhi. They have three children, including sons Francis Todd Thompson (born ca. 1963) of Baton Rouge and Brant L. Thompson (born April 1, 1965 of Delhi. Thompson is a Presbyterian.
Thompson's brother and the oldest of his five siblings, Clyde Nolan Thompson (April 25, 1937 – July 31, 2015), was a multi-sport athlete at Louisiana Tech who for twenty years held the school record for stolen bases. He was also a Tech football quarterback. With his doctorate in professional education from the University of Southern Mississippi at Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Clyde Thompson was a teacher and coach in several Louisiana high school and then at Louisiana Tech. In 1975, he became the drug education coordinator for District 8 for the Louisiana Department of Education. In 1980, Republican Governor Dave Treen named Thompson, a Democrat, as the deputy director of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. He then became the assistant to the president of the State Board of Education before he returned to Delhi and became the director of the Madison Parish Port, a position which he held for more than two decades until retirement in 2014.
Interest in agriculture
In 2000, Thompson was named chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. In 2003, he authored the "Master Farmer" program, which the legislature approved without dissent. The program was developed by the Louisiana State University Agriculture Center and sponsored by the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation. It is an environmental education program designed to help farmers and ranchers identify and adopt best management practices to improve water quality in lakes, streams and bayous. It involves classroom instruction, field days and implementation of farm-specific conservation plans to maximize productivity while minimizing environmental impacts. Thompson's model program has been proposed for national acceptance.
In January 2016, Senate President John Alario appointed Thompson chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Poverty Point case
During his long legislative career, Thompson worked successfully to procure state funding for Poverty Point Reservoir, an attractive 3,000-acre (12 km2) lake just north of Delhi that was completed in 2001. The lake was since been partly converted to Poverty Point Reservoir State Park. Thompson's brother, Michael L. "Mike" Thompson (born February 1, 1949), a former mayor of Delhi is the past executive director of the reservoir district. On June 26, 2008, Mike Thompson along with District Attorney William R. "Billy" Coenen (born July 1, 1947) of the Fifth Judicial District and a resident of Rayville and engineer Terry Denmon of Monroe were indicted by a federal grand jury in Shreveport for having conspired secretly to purchase land along what would become Poverty Point Reservoir and then selling the land at an elevated price. The trio is each charged with one count of conspiracy and eight counts of mail fraud. Mike Thompson is also under indictment for alleged violations of the Hobbs Act. Thompson was accused of having used district employees to perform personal work for him at the lake.
According to the indictment, Thompson, Coenen, and Denmon bought a 5-acre (20,000 m2) tract of land on what would later form the shores of the reservoir for $16,800. They reportedly used a nominee purchaser to hide their interest. Subsequently, Thompson used his position as executive director to have trees removed from the property. According to the indictment, Thompson and Denmon (born May 15, 1944), whose engineering firm was contracted to work for the district, had the property excavated. The tract was subdivided, and six of the eight lots sold for a total of $250,000. Coenen was implicated through his role as attorney for the Poverty Point District as well as being district attorney.
Other political developments
In 1996, Thompson ran for the open Fifth District seat in the United States House of Representatives. He polled 50,144 votes (28 percent) and went into a general election with the Republican ophthalmologist John Cooksey of Monroe, who led in the jungle primary with 60,853 ballots (34 percent). Former U.S. Representative Clyde C. Holloway of Rapides Parish trailed in third place with 48,226 (27 percent). Holloway then endorsed Cooksey, who defeated Thompson by a comfortable margin. Cooksey received 135,990 votes (58 percent) to the more liberal Thompson's 97,363 (42 percent). Cooksey served three terms before leaving the U.S. House early in 2003. Cooksey's campaign manager, Lee Fletcher, was thereafter named as his chief of staff. Fletcher tried to win the House seat himself in 2002 but lost to Democrat (later Republican) Rodney Alexander.
Though he is a Democrat, Thompson broke party ranks in the 2003 gubernatorial primary to support Republican candidate Hunt Downer of Houma, a former state House Speaker, who finished sixth in the balloting though he had the support of a cross-section of state legislators from both parties.
In 2005, Francis Thompson was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield.
Thompson is unopposed for reelection to the state Senate in the primary election scheduled for October 24, 2015.