Updated 8:09 p.m. | Fred Thompson, a former Republican senator, presidential candidate and actor, died Sunday in Nashville, Tenn., from a recurrence of lymphoma, according to a statement from his family . He was 73.
Six years out of law school at Vanderbilt University and a year after serving as campaign manager for Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn., Thompson first gained national notice after signing on in 1973 as the Republican counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, which investigated President Richard M. Nixon and the Watergate scandal. He would go on to work in the governor’s office of now-Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., before serving as counsel to a pair of Senate committees.
“Very few people can light up the room the way Fred Thompson did,” Alexander said in a statement. “He used his magic as a lawyer, actor, Watergate counsel, and United States senator to become one of our country’s most principled and effective public servants. He was my friend for nearly fifty years. I will miss him greatly.” Thompson was elected in 1994 in a special election to fill the remaining two years of Vice President Al Gore’s Senate term. He was elected to a full term in 1996, then opted to return to acting rather than seek re-election in 2002.
He ran for president in 2008, becoming the last Republican to enter the race, in September 2007, and expected to be a major contender for the nomination. He dropped out on Jan. 22, 2008, after Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., won the South Carolina primary, where Thompson had planned to make his mark.
According to Biography.com, Thompson’s acting career began in 1985, when Thompson played himself in the story of a whistleblower he’d defended in Tennessee. He had 53 acting credits, according to IMDB.com, highlighted by the long-running TV drama “Law & Order” and its spinoffs, as well as the films “The Hunt for Red October,” “Die Hard 2” and “In the Line of Fire.”
His last acting credit was a 2015 film, “90 Minutes in Heaven.”
“Fred stood on principle and common sense, and had a deep love for and connection with the people across Tennessee whom he had the privilege to serve in the United States Senate,” the Thompson family said in a statement. “He enjoyed a hearty laugh, a strong handshake, a good cigar, and a healthy dose of humility. Fred was the same man on the floor of the Senate, the movie studio, or the town square of Lawrenceburg, his home.”
According to The Tennessean , Thompson is survived by his son Fred Thompson Jr., his wife Jeri and their two children.