Judge Thompson is a graduate of Yale University (B.A. 1969) and Yale Law School (J.D. 1972). He was nominated to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in September 1980 by President Jimmy Carter. Judge Thompson served as Chief Judge from 1991 to 1998.
Judge Thompson served as Assistant Attorney General of Alabama from 1972 to 1974. He was the first African-American Assistant Attorney General for the State of Alabama, the first African-American bar examiner for the State, and the second African-American federal judge in the State. Judge Thompson was in private practice from 1974 until 1980. He was the Founding Director and Board Chairman of the Alabama Legal Services Corporation.
Judge Thompson has contributed to the development of legal scholarship by serving as Jurist in Residence at Pace Law School in 2012, delivering the Dean’s Lecture at Yale Law School in 2004, and serving as a New York University Law School Scholar in Residence in 1998 and 1999. He was the Eleventh Circuit’s District Judge Representative on the Judicial Conference of the United States from 2007 through 2011 and was chair of the District Judges Representatives to the Conference from 2010 through 2011.
In 2013, Judge Thompson was awarded the Thurgood Marshall Award by the National Bar Association’s Judicial Council in recognition of his “personal contributions and extraordinary commitment to the advancement of civil rights and for being a role model for members of the bench and bar.” In 2015, Stanford Law School honored him with The National Public Service Award, noting that he is a “hero” who has “devoted his legal career to improving the lives of others” and that his "public service has had a national impact." He received the 2005 Mark De Wolfe Howe Award from the Harvard Civil Rights - Civil Liberties Law Review “for his Unyielding Commitment to Advancing the Personal Freedoms and Human Dignities of the American People.” In 2008 he received the Judge Jane M. Bolin Service Award from the Yale Law School BLSA in recognition of his “Outstanding Dedication and Support to Yale BLSA and Contributions to the Legal Community.” In April 2009 he received the Ernestine Sapp Justice Award from Thomas Goode Jones Law School, as well as an Honoree Award from the Touro Law School BLSA. In May 2010, Thomas Goode Jones Law School awarded him an honorary J.D. degree.
Chambliss Children's House, 1961
Tuskegee Institute Hgh School, 1965
Yale University, B.A., 1969
Yale Law School, J.D., 1972