By Associate Editor Joe May
Former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson announced Tuesday on his website that after a poor showing in Republican primaries, he is dropping his bid to be the second person affiliated with the church to occupy the White House.
“Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for president of the United States,” the attorney turned actor turned politician turned actor again stated. “I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort.”
Thompson served one term as senator from his home state of Tennessee. He became well-known during the 1970s Watergate hearings for asking the question, “What did the president know and when did he know it?” That query brought about the revelation that then-President Richard M. Nixon was taping all the goings-on in the Oval Office. Those tapes eventually led to the president’s downfall.
Thompson’s roots as a Christian became well-known when “Focus on the Family” founder and Nazarene Church member James Dobson said in a broadcast that he did not believe the former senator, who played District Attorney Arthur Branch on NBC’s “Law and Order” was actually a Christian.
That prompted Thompson’s spokesperson to reply that the then-potential candidate was indeed a Christian having been “baptized into the church of Christ,” according to media reports at the time.
While the idea of a Thompson candidacy invigorated the Republican Party in mid-2007 when the former senator hinted he might be considering seeking the office, his perceived lack of action and energy once he announced soon caused most would-be supporters to look elsewhere for a candidate.
Thompson, who is divorced and remarried to a younger woman by whom he has two children, is apparently not active in the Lord’s church, though he does attend services with his elderly mother, who is a member of the body in Brentwood, Tenn.
The first and last member of the Lord’s church to occupy the White House was James Garfield, who studied at the feet of Alexander Campbell and taught at his college. He was also the first minister to become president. Woodrow Wilson, a Presbyterian preacher, was the only other evangelist to occupy the office.
Ronald Reagan was raised in the Disciples of Christ, but left that faith in adulthood. Lyndon B. Johnson was also a member of the DOC and some scholars have insisted that Abraham Lincoln was secretly baptized by a preacher in the Lord’s church, though that theory has largely been discredited.