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Richard Wigginton Thompson was born on June 9, 1809, in Culpeper County, Virginia. In 1831, he moved to Kentucky and settled shortly thereafter in Lawrence County, Indiana. He began practicing law in Bedford, Indiana, after being admitted to the bar in 1834. Thompson served in the Indiana House of Representatives (1834-1836) and the Indiana Senate (1837-1838). In 1836, he married Harriet Eliza Gardiner with whom he had eight children. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1841 and 1847. The Thompsons moved to Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1843. He served as the city attorney there in 1846 and 1847. During the Civil War, he was the commander of Camp Thompson, Indiana, and provost marshal of the Terre Haute district. President Lincoln appointed him collector of internal revenue for the seventh Indiana district, a post that Thompson held for one term (1864-1866). From 1867 to 1869, Thompson was judge of the fifth circuit court. President Hayes appointed Thompson Secretary of the Navy. Thompson resigned from this post in 1881 to become chairman of the American
Committee of the French Panama Canal Company. He also served as a director of the Panama Railroad Company (1881-1889). In addition to his life of public service, Thompson was the author of four books including The Papacy and the Civil Power. He died on February 9, 1900, in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress. 19 Jan. 2005.
Shepherd, Rebecca A., Charles W. Calhoun, Elizabeth Shanahan-Shoemaker, and Alan F. January,
comp. A Biographical Directory of the Indiana General Assembly, Volume 1, 1816-1899. Indianapolis:
The Select Committee on the Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly, 1980.