Richard Wigginton Thompson—born on 9 June 1809 in Culpepper County, Va.—left Virginia in 1831; lived briefly in Louisville, Kentucky; and, later that year, settled in Lawrence County, Ind. There, he taught school, kept a store, and studied law at night. Admitted to the Bar in 1834, he practiced law in Bedford, Ind., and served for four terms in the Indiana Legislature from 1834 to 1838. He served as President Pro Tempore of the Indiana Senate for a short time and briefly held the office of Acting Lieutenant Governor. In the Presidential Election of 1840, he zealously advocated the election of William Henry Harrison. Thompson then represented Indiana in the United States Congress, serving in the House of Representatives from 1841 to 1843 and again from 1847 to 1849.
Following the Civil War, Thompson served as judge of the 18th Circuit Court of the state of Indiana from 1867 to 1869. In 1877, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed him Secretary of the Navy; and he held that office until 1881.
Retiring to Indiana, Richard W. Thompson lived out the remainder of his days in his adopted state. He died on 9 February 1900 at Terre Haute, Ind.
Robert Means Thompson—born on 2 March 1849 in Corsica, Pa.—was appointed to the United States Naval Academy on 30 July 1864. Graduating tenth in the class of 1868, Thompson first went to sea in Conto-cook in the West Indian Squadron. He later served in Franklin, Richmond, and Guard of the Mediterranean Squadron; as well as in Wachusett and at the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I.
Commissioned ensign on 19 April 1869 and promoted to master on 12 July 1870, he resigned from the Navy on 18 November 1871 to study law in his brother's office. After he was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 1872, he was still not satisfied with his legal training so he studied law at Harvard and graduated from that school in 1874. Thompson subsequently practiced law in Boston and was a member of the Boston Common Council from 1876 to 1878. He later became interested in mining and smelting enterprises.
He was an organizer of the Navy Athletic Association and the donor of the Thompson Cup which is awarded to the midshipman who contributes most to the advancement of athletics at the Naval Academy. He also helped to organize the New York Chapter of the United States Naval Academy Alumni Association and served as its first president and as a trustee of the Naval Academy Alumni Association at Annapolis, Md.
Thompson was president of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers and president of the Navy League. He also visited Japan at the invitation of the Japanese government and was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Second Class, by the Emperor. He also received the Order of Gustavus Vasa by the government of Sweden, and the Cross of Commander, Legion of Honor, by the French government.
Robert Means Thompson died on 5 September 1930 at Fort Ticonderoga, N.Y.
The first destroyer named Thompson, DD-305, was named for Richard Wigginton Thompson; the second, DD-627, for Robert Means Thompson.
(DD-305: dp. 1,308; 1. 314'4¼"; b. 30'11½"; dr. 9'10"; s. 35.0 k.; cpl. 122; a. 4 4", 1 3", 12 21" tt.; cl. Clemson)
The first Thompson (DD-305) was laid down on 25 September 1918 at San Francisco, Calif., by the Bethlehem Steel Corp.; launched on 15 January 1919; sponsored by Mrs. Herbert H. Harris; and commissioned at the Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif., on 16 August 1920, Lt. Comdr. H. L. Best in command.
On 4 September, Thompson departed San Francisco for a shakedown training cruise which took her as far southward as Magdalena Bay, Mexico. She returned to San Diego, Calif., on 29 September, to operate with the Battle Fleet as part of Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 32, Destroyer Squadron (DesRon) 11. After initial fleet operations off the west coast, Thompson departed from San Diego on 7 January 1921 to take part in fleet maneuvers off Panama and later off the Chilean coast, south of Valparaiso.
Departing from Valparaiso on 4 February, she steamed with DesDiv 32 to Balboa, Canal Zone, and thence to La Union, El Salvador. Departing that port on 27 February, she proceeded north and soon resumed operations out of San Diego. Her cruises ranged as far north as Seattle, Wash.
Following her return from exercises to the northward on 21 June, she operated off the California coast. On 10 December, she departed San Diego and steamed to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Wash., for regular overhaul.
Upon completion of the refit, Thompson headed for San Diego on 8 February 1922 for resumption of operations with the Battle Fleet. In the following years, she worked out of San Diego and took part in winter and spring maneuvers off Panama, on occasion transiting the Panama Canal for fleet exercises in the Caribbean Sea.
On 15 April 1925, Thompson steamed with the Fleet from San Francisco for fleet problems in Hawaiian waters. Upon completion of this training on 1 July, she departed Pearl Harbor with the Fleet, bound for a goodwill cruise to Australia and New Zealand. After calling at Pago Pago, Samoa, on 10 and 11 July, she arrived at Melbourne, Australia, on the 23d and received a rousing welcome. In company with sisterships Kennedy (DD-306), Decatur (DD-341), and Farquhar (DD-304), Thompson left Melbourne on 6 August and made port at Dunedin, New Zealand, four days later.
Putting out to sea after a 10-day visit there, Thompson visited Wellington from 22 to 24 August. She then proceeded home across the Pacific, via Pago Pago and Pearl Harbor, and reached San Diego on 26 September.
For the remainder of her career, Thompson continued her operations with DesDiv 32, DesRon 11. Early the next year, she made a brief visit to the east coast, calling at Norfolk, Va., Newport, R.I., and New York, N.Y., before returning to San Diego and serving out the rest of her days in operations along the west coast.
Under the terms of the 1930 London Naval Treaty limiting naval tonnage and armaments, Thompson was decommissioned on 4 April 1930; struck from the Navy list on 22 June 1930; and sold for scrap on 10 June 1931.
Following her sale, she served as a floating restaurant in lower San Francisco Bay during the depression years of the 1930's. In February 1944, the Navy repurchased the ship and partly sank her in the mud flats of San Francisco Bay, where Army and Navy aircraft carried out bombing runs with dummy bombs.
The destroyer Thompson (DD-627) refuels from the battleship Arkansas (BB-33) in April, 1944, while rehearsing for the invasion of Normandy. (80-G-244198)