Hugh Smith Thompson

51st Governor of the State of South Carolina 1882 to 1886

Date Born: January 24, 1836

Date Died: November 20, 1904

Place Born: Charleston, SC

Place Buried: Trinity Episcopal Churchyard, Columbia, SC

Residence: Barnwell District, SC

Occupation: Teacher, Captain of Cadets at the Citadel, Conferate Army

The Citadel: Graduated 1856

South Carolina Superintendent of Education: 1876-1881

Governor of South Carolina: 1882-1886

1886 – Governor Thompson resigned to assume his post as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury

Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury: 1886-1889

Thompson helped establish the practice of funding public schools with local taxes while serving as South Carolina Superintendent of Education

Born on January 24, 1836 in Charleston, Hugh Smith Thompson was the son of Henry Tazewell Thompson and Agnes (Smith) Thompson. He graduated from the South Carolina Military Academy (aka The Citadel) in 1856 and was a lieutenant professor of French at the Arsenal Military Academy in Columbia, SC from 1858 to 1861. Later, he was a captain and professor of belles lettres at The Citadel at Charleston.

In 1858, Hugh Smith Thompson married Elizabeth Anderson Clarkson, daughter of Thomas Boston Clarkson and Sarah Caroline Heriot of Columbia, SC. They had seven children.

Leading a battalion of Citadel cadets on January 9, 1861, they fired the first shots of the American Civil War when they opened fire on the Union ship Star of the West entering Charleston's harbor. For the remainder of the war, he served as an instructor of the cadets at The Citadel.

At the end of hostilities in 1865, Hugh Smith Thompson became the Principal of Columbia Male Academy until 1880.

In 1876, he was nominated by the state Democrats for the position of the state Superintendent of Education which he won upon the resolution of the controversial gubernatorial election in the favor of Wade Hampton, III and the Democrats. He was re-elected in 1878 and 1880 without opposition and in 1882 Thompson lobbied for the presidency of South Carolina College. However, he emerged as a dark horse candidate for governor after the split of the state Democrats between John Bratton and John Doby Kennedy. After the second ballot at the nominating convention, both Bratton and Kennedy withdrew their names and Thompson became the Democratic candidate for the gubernatorial election of 1882.

Thompson easily won the general election against J. Hendrix McLane and became the next governor of South Carolina. He was re-elected without opposition in the gubernatorial election of 1884 and his time as governor was marked by stability of the state and unity within the Democratic party. Upon being appointed in 1886 by President Grover Cleveland to be Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Thompson resigned as governor on July 10, 1886.

In 1889, he became the commissioner of the U.S. Civil Service Commission after appointment by President Benjamin Harrison. He retired from public service in 1892 and for over a decade was the comptroller of the New York Life Insurance Company.

On November 20, 1904, Thompson died in New York City and was buried at Trinity Episcopal churchyard in Columbia, SC.

Hugh Smith Thompson was born in Charleston, SC. He graduated from The Citadel in Charleston just a few years before the American Civil War broke out. From 1858 to 1861 he taught at the Arsenal Academy in South Carolina, and from 1861 to 1865 he was an instructor at The Citadel and commanded a battalion of Cadets that on January 9, 1961 fired the first gun of the Civil War against Star of the West as it attempted to relieve the Federal Army garrison at Fort Sumter. After the war ended Thompson was the Principal of Columbia Male Academy until 1876. He also was South Carolina’s Superintendent of Education from 1876 until 1881, when he was elected governor. His administration was marked by proposals for tax reform, economic stability, and educational development. Thompson served two years of a second gubernatorial term and then resigned in 1886 after being appointed Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury by President Grover Cleveland. He held that post until 1889, when he was appointed to the U.S. Civil Service Commission by President Benjamin Harrison. After serving as a Civil Service Commissioner for three years, he became comptroller of the New York Life Insurance company, a position that he held for more than a decade.

<< Last Governor - Johnson Hagood

Next Governor - John Calhoun Sheppard >>

© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved