Meldrim Thomson, Jr

Meldrim Thomson, Jr.
73rd Governor of New Hampshire
In office
January 4, 1973 – January 4, 1979
Preceded by Walter R. Peterson, Jr.
Succeeded by Hugh J. Gallen
Personal details
Born March 8, 1912 (1912-03-08)
Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania
Died April 19, 2001(2001-04-19) (aged 89)
Orford, New Hampshire
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Anne Gale Kelly
Profession publisher

Meldrim Thomson, Jr. (March 8, 1912 – April 19, 2001) was a Republican who served three terms as Governor of the U.S. state of New Hampshire from 1973 to 1979, during which time he became known as a strong supporter of conservative political values.

Early life

Thomson was born in 1912 in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, the son of Meldrim and Marion (Booth) Thomson, and was raised in Georgia and Florida.[1] He was an Eagle Scout. Thomson attended Mercer University, Washington and Jefferson College, and the University of Georgia School of Law and was admitted to the practice of law in Florida in 1936.[2]

In 1938, he married his secretary, Anne Gale Kelly, and together they had six children.

Thomson made his fortune publishing law books. In 1952, he founded Equity Publishing Corp., which published the laws of New Hampshire, Vermont and Puerto Rico in English and Spanish. In 1955, he moved his family to New Hampshire, where he became involved in local and state educational and tax issues.

Political career

In 1966, as chairman of the Orford School Board, Thomson refused to accept federal education aid because he said there were too many strings attached. He lost races for governor in Republican primaries in 1968 and 1970, running again in the 1970 General Election on the third-party American Independent line of Alabama Governor George Wallace.[3] He finally won the governorship in 1972 after a campaign in which he pledged to veto any new sales or income tax that was put on his desk, and further promised not to raise existing taxes.[4]

Thomson ran briefly for the presidency in 1980, and then unsuccessfully for the governorship of New Hampshire in 1980 as a Republican. In 1982 he ran for governor as an Independent, getting just 1.7% of the vote.[5]

Governorship

Thomson coined the slogans "Low taxes are the result of low spending" and "Ax the Tax" to represent his fiscal philosophy. He eventually became recognized as one of the most conservative governors in the nation. During his tenure, the state reinstituted the death penalty and abolished most of New Hampshire's taxes (income, capital gains, sales, etc.).

He was also a strong proponent of state sovereignty. When Thomson learned Massachusetts tax agents were at New Hampshire liquor stores taking down the numbers on cars with Massachusetts license plates, he had them arrested.[6] When he learned that Maine had arrested a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, lobsterman, in Maine waters, he began what was known as the “Lobster war.”[7] The conflict ended in the US Supreme Court with the drawing of an ocean boundary between the two states at the mouth of the Piscataqua River.[8]

In 1978, Thomson appointed David Souter to the Superior Court bench.

Thomson was a close ally of William Loeb III, the conservative publisher of the Manchester Union Leader, New Hampshire's only statewide newspaper.

Death and honors

Thomson died in 2001 aged 89 from Parkinson's Disease and heart problems in Orford, New Hampshire.

In 2002, the state named both a state building and state road in honor of the late governor. The state office complex on Hazen Drive in Concord was named "Meldrim Thomson, Jr. State Office Complex." A 16-mile stretch of Route 25A, where his Mt. Cube Farm lined both sides of the road, was named the "Governor Meldrim Thomson Scenic Highway."

Controversies

During his governorship, and thereafter, Thomson was criticized for a number of controversial actions:

  • during the 1977 anti-nuclear demonstrations in Seabrook, dressing in military fatigues and being carried in by helicopter to order in person the arrest of 1,400 protesters.[10]
  • personally arresting speeders from his official car.[11]
  • Openly threatening to veto all funding for the University of New Hampshire after the Gay Students Organization held a dance and performed a play on campus.[13]
  • sending out a press release in 1977 saying that he wanted journalists to keep the "Christ" in Christmas and not call it Xmas, which, he asserted, was a pagan spelling of Christmas, despite being a representation by the Greek letter chi.[14]

Presidential Bid

Thomson was one of Ronald Reagan's staunchest supporters in 1976, as the former California governor challenged President Gerald Ford for the Republican presidential nomination. Thomson was dismayed by Reagan's announcement that he would select moderate Republican Senator Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania as his running mate should he win the nomination.[16]

After he was defeated for re-election in 1978, Thomson left the Republican party to form his own Constitution Party. However, after getting on the ballot in Alabama, Kansas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Maine, his campaign contributions dried up when it was evident that Ronald Reagan was going to win the Republican nomination for president. Thomson then ended his campaign for president and returned to the Republican Party.[17]

References

External links

  • Thomson at New Hampshire's Division of Historic Resources
Political offices
Preceded by
Walter R. Peterson, Jr.
Governor of New Hampshire
1973–1979
Succeeded by
Hugh J. Gallen
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