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Interview with Fletcher Thompson, April 6, 2009

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:31 - Early life

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Partial Transcript: Before we get into your very successful political career...

Segment Synopsis: Thompson recalls growing up in East Point, Georgia in the suburbs of Atlanta, hearing stories about the Civil War from his grandfather and the history of Georgia's vote for succession from the Union. Thompson also talks about being a Republican while his father was a Democrat, and about running as a Republican candidate for a State Senate seat.

Keywords: Civil War; College, Park, Georgia; Democrat; East Point, Georgia; Republican; scallywags

00:10:54 - Military career

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Partial Transcript: Before we get further into politics, let me ask you a question about your military service.

Segment Synopsis: Thompson recounts being inspired by President Roosevelt's Day of Infamy speech, and enrolling in the army in hopes of being an aviation cadet but being placed in infantry training instead. He talks about training as a navigator and serving as a rescue responder in the 6th Emergency Air Sea Rescue Squadron in the Pacific Theater. He also recounts his "closest call" war moment in which he accidentally almost died.

Keywords: Air Res Rescue; Pacific Theater; Pearl Habor; Studs Meyer; atomic bomb; infantry; navigation

00:24:47 - Atomic bombs / Pacific Theater surrender

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Partial Transcript: Then when the atomic bombs were dropped...

Segment Synopsis: Thompson recalls a dispatch mission to look for survivors of the bombed USS Indianapolis. He talks about the Japanese surrender after the atomic bomb drop, and serving as part of the occupation troops. Thompson talks about attending Emory University for a quarter after returning from World War II. He recalls meeting his future wife and going out on their first date.

Keywords: Emory University; Japanese surrender; Kamikaze pilots; USS Indianapolis; atomic bomb; baka bomb; homecoming; marriage; wife

00:33:14 - Atomic, hydrogen bomb testing

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Partial Transcript: I stayed in the Reserves and I would fly on the weekends...

Segment Synopsis: Thompson talks about being called back into service, flying B-47 jet bombers, and flying atmospheric-sampling planes after hydrogen bomb and atomic bomb tests.

Keywords: B-47; Mike Shot; Operation Ivy; U.S. Reserves; atomic bomb; hydrogen bomb

00:38:59 - Aviation law

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Partial Transcript: Let's get around to you becoming a lawyer.

Segment Synopsis: Thompson talks about working for Associated Aviation Underwriters after retiring from military service, studying at Woodrow Wilson College of Law, and practicing aviation law.

Keywords: Atlanta Law School; Woodrow Wilson College of Law; aviation law; insurance

00:41:52 - Georgia State Senate

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Partial Transcript: That's when I got involved in politics.

Segment Synopsis: Thompson recalls running for a state senate seat as a Republican at a time when there was a Republican minority in Georgia politics. He discusses his unsuccessful attempts to pass legislation for open investigation into local government corruption and for creating a uniform metro Atlanta emergency telephone number. Thompson also describes his participation on the original drafting committee for the MARTA Authority Act.

Keywords: MARTA Authority Act; Republican minority; corruption; emergency response; public transportation

00:49:12 - Run for U.S. House of Representatives

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Partial Transcript: Then, I got into the Congressional thing.

Segment Synopsis: Thompson discusses the pressure from the Republican Party to campaign against incumbent U.S. Representative Charles Weltner for his seat in the House. He recalls hiring a recent graduate, Hal Phillips, as his campaign manager, the incident of a discovering a spy for the opposing candidate, and Weltner's dropout from the race in protest of running on the same ticket as Lester Maddox.

Keywords: Charles Weltner; Congress; Hal Phillips; Lester Maddox; Republican Party; black vote; campaign; election; racial politics

00:59:09 - Experience in U.S House: Vietnam War, desegregation

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Partial Transcript: Well then, of course, I was able to be sworn in...

Segment Synopsis: Thompson discusses being a co-sponsor of the 911 uniform emergency number legislation and being president of the freshman Republicans in the House. He also recounts the time a group of anti-Vietnam War protesters from Atlanta occupied his office. Thompson also recalls controversy surrounding his opposition to Jane Fonda's broadcast to troops in Vietnam and to school busing to achieve racial balance. Thompson also discusses his re-election campaigns against challengers Charles Weltner and Andy Young, and public protest against his campaign's publication of a Andy Young quote regarding the Black Panther Party.

Keywords: 911 implementation; AT&T; Andrew Young; Black Panther Party; Jane Fonda; Republican Party; Vietnam War; anti-war protest; desegregation; school busing

01:16:15 - Run for U.S. Senate

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Partial Transcript: And yet, you decided to run for the United States Senate.

Segment Synopsis: Thompson reflects on the 1972 U.S. Senate race against Republican Bo Callaway and Democrat Sam Nunn. He reflects on mistakes he made during his campaign regarding fundraising campaign contributions, use of negative campaign ads, and TV advertisement expenditure. Thompson also recalls how presidential-candidate Richard Nixon retracted his promise to endorse Thompson's campaign.

Keywords: Bo Callaway; Richard Nixon; Sam Nunn; advertising; campaign contribution; fundraising

01:26:36 - Republican Party in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk for a minute about the Republican Party in Georgia and its growth.

Segment Synopsis: Thompson talks about his limited involvement in the Republican Party in Georgia after his retirement from politics. He gives his view on the trend of privatization of public services, such as the distribution of private bids from the Atlanta Gas Light company.

Keywords: Atlanta Gas Light; Public Service Commission; privatization; public utilities

01:31:46 - Life after politics

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Partial Transcript: What has life been like for Fletcher Thompson after politics?

Segment Synopsis: Thompson talks about his career after politics, and his civil and public engagement. He recounts one incident in which he represented the drug company G.D. Searle in its attempt to obtain an ocean-dumping permit for it NuraSweet byproduct. He also recounts a memorable experience of taking two of the company's VPs out on a plane ride.

Keywords: G.D. Searle; NutraSweet; aspartame

01:40:13 - World War II Memorial Inscription Controversy

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Partial Transcript: But then another thing that has happened.

Segment Synopsis: Thompson discusses the efforts of the Atlanta World War II Roundtable to petition for Congress to include the phrase "so help me God" on the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C., on the claim that it was left out from President Roosevelt's original speech.

Keywords: Franklin D. Roosevelt; World War II Memorial; secularism