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Bennie Thompson

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Bennie Thompson
Official portrait, 2023
Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2023
Preceded byJohn Katko
In office
January 3, 2011 – January 3, 2019
Preceded byPeter King
Succeeded byMike Rogers
In office
January 3, 2005 – January 3, 2007
Preceded byJim Turner
Succeeded byPeter King
Chair of the House January 6th Committee
In office
July 1, 2021 – January 3, 2023
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee
In office
January 3, 2019 – January 3, 2023
Preceded byMichael McCaul
Succeeded byMark Green
In office
January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2011
Preceded byPeter King
Succeeded byPeter King
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Mississippi's 2nd district
Assumed office
April 13, 1993
Preceded byMike Espy
Personal details
Bennie Gordon Thompson

(1948-01-28) January 28, 1948 (age 76)
Bolton, Mississippi, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
London Johnson
(m. 1968)
EducationTougaloo College (BA)
Jackson State University (MS)
WebsiteHouse website

Bennie Gordon Thompson (born January 28, 1948) is an American politician serving as the U.S. representative for Mississippi's 2nd congressional district since 1993. A member of the Democratic Party, Thompson served as the chair of the Committee on Homeland Security from 2007 to 2011 and from 2019 to 2023.[1] He was both the first Democrat and the first African American to chair the committee. He is the dean of Mississippi's congressional delegation.

Since 2011, Thompson has been the only Democrat in Mississippi's congressional delegation. His district includes most of Jackson and is the only majority-black district in the state. It is about 275 miles (443 km) long, 180 miles (290 km) wide, and borders the Mississippi River. The Mississippi Delta comprises the vast majority of the district.

Early life, education, and career[edit]

Thompson was born in Bolton, Mississippi, the son of Will Thompson and Annie (Lauris) Thompson.[2] He attended Hinds County public schools and graduated from Hinds County Agricultural High School.[3] He then attended Tougaloo College, from which he earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1968.[3] He earned a Master of Science in educational administration from Jackson State University in 1972.[3] Thompson was a schoolteacher in Madison, Mississippi.[2] He served as an alderman (1969–1973) and then mayor of Bolton (1973–1980) before being elected to the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, on which he served from 1980 to 1993.[4]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Thompson tours Clarksdale, Mississippi, with President Bill Clinton in 1999


When Mike Espy resigned from the United States House of Representatives in Mississippi's 2nd congressional district to become Secretary of Agriculture, Thompson ran in the special election to succeed him. With five other Democrats splitting the vote, he finished second, behind Republican Hayes Dent with 28% of the vote in the March 30, 1993, primary election.[5] He then defeated Dent in the April 13 runoff with 55% of the vote.[6] He won the seat again in 1994 and has been reelected 12 times. He has faced serious opposition only twice, when journalist Clinton LeSueur held him to 55% in 2002 and 58% in 2004.

Thompson meeting with Mississippi Democrats

Thompson became an outspoken advocate for the Gulf Coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit in 2005. From his position on the Homeland Security Committee, he pushed for accountability at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and a careful review of the role of the Red Cross in the time of disaster. He also pursued waste, fraud, and abuse in hurricane contracting and called for preferences to be given to small and Gulf Coast businesses in the recovery and rebuilding of the affected states. Thompson is the founding member of the bipartisan Gulf Coast Recovery & Rebuilding Caucus in the House of Representatives.

Thompson's voting record has been decidedly liberal; he is by far the most liberal member of the Mississippi delegation and arguably one of the most liberal congressmen ever to represent the state. He is a founding member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. His legislative platform focuses mainly on homeland security, civil rights, agriculture and rural issues, equal education, and health care reform. In 1975, he became one of the original plaintiffs in the Ayers Case, which concerned the adequate funding of predominantly black educational institutes in Mississippi. In 2000, Thompson wrote legislation that created the National Center for Minority Health and Health Care Disparities.

During his tenure as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Thompson focused on assuring that state and local officials, as well as first responders (fire, police, EMTs), got the resources they needed to protect their communities. Thompson was particularly concerned about local officials getting adequate resources, having been a volunteer firefighter and a local elected official for 24 years.

Thompson was one of 31 House Democrats to object to the certification of the results of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio.[7] President George W. Bush won Ohio, the state the representatives objected to counting, by 118,457 votes.[8] Democrats claimed the results were tainted by irregularities or fraud.[9] These claims were investigated and rejected by journalists, and Democratic nominee John Kerry, who did not contest the election result.[7] As of 2021, Thompson stands by his vote, claiming it was "based on what the issues are at that time. But again, I didn't tear up the place because I cast a vote."[10]

Along with John Conyers, in April 2006 Thompson brought an action against George W. Bush and others alleging violations of the Constitution in the passing of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.[11] The case, Conyers v. Bush, was ultimately dismissed.[12]

On January 5, 2007, Thompson introduced H.R.1, "Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007", the first bill of the 110th Congress. The bill, cosponsored by more than 100 House Members, provided for the implementation of the 9/11 Commission's remaining recommendations. It included provisions requiring major improvements in aviation security, border security, and infrastructure security; providing first responders the equipment and training they need; beefing up efforts to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction; and significantly expanding diplomatic, economic, educational, and other strategies designed to counter terrorism. The bill had bipartisan support and passed 299–128 on January 9, 2007. On July 27, 2007, the Conference Report on H.R. 1 passed the House overwhelmingly, 371–40. The previous day, it had passed the Senate 85–8. The President signed H.R. 1 into law on August 3, 2007.

With the passage of H.R. 1, Thompson is the first African-American Chairman of a House Committee to have a House–Senate Conference on the first bill introduced in either the House or the Senate in any given Congress.

On December 27, 2009, commenting on reports that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who had allegedly tried to set off a suicide bomb on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on December 25, 2009, had subsequently confessed to being trained and equipped in Yemen,[13][14] Thompson called for a halt to all current plans with regard to Yemen in light of Abdulmutullab's ties there, including plans to repatriate approximately 80 Yemeni captives in Guantanamo.

Thompson in his office in 2016

Thompson is a supporter, and one of the proposers of, a bill[15] to prevent auto insurance companies from using credit scores to set their rates, which supporters claim would lower rates for Americans in financial struggle. The bill proposed that auto insurance rates be based solely on factors related to "skills and responsibility behind the wheel", excluding factors such as debt or poor credit elsewhere.[16] The bill has not been enacted.

Thompson has also been a supporter of a measure to increase screening and background checks for pilot trainees to reduce chances of terrorist exploitation. The bill, H.R. 6159,[17] would require all applicants to go through a waiting period while they are screened and cleared by the Department of Homeland Security. Currently, only foreign-born trainees are required to go through this screening.[18][19] The bill has not been enacted.

In July 2014, Thompson joined Senator Ron Wyden in introducing a bill to limit the number of documents that are classified and to overhaul the security clearance system. The bill stalled and was not passed.[20][21]

On April 1, 2020, Thompson and other Democratic lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee introduced legislation that would create a commission tasked with "producing a full and complete accounting of the nation's preparedness and response to the coronavirus". He compared this to the 9/11 Commission, saying, "while we don't yet know the full impact the coronavirus will have on the nation," already "more Americans have been killed by the virus than died in the September 11, 2001, attacks". A bipartisan group of House lawmakers would appoint 25 commission members, and 18 months after its initial meeting, a "public report detailing recommendations for the development of a national plan to address public health and the economic and social impacts of future pandemics" would be published.[22]

For his tenure as the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee in the 116th Congress, Thompson earned an "A" grade from the non-partisan Lugar Center's Congressional Oversight Hearing Index.

On March 3, 2021, Thompson was the only House Democrat to vote against the For the People Act, a top legislative priority of House Democrats that would reform campaign finance and election laws and expand voting rights. Despite initially cosponsoring the bill, Thompson said his vote "was no accident", explaining, "My constituents opposed the redistricting portion of the bill as well as the section on public finances. I always listen and vote in the interest of my constituents."[23]

Negotiating the January 6 Commission and chairing the Select Committee[edit]

On January 7, 2021, Thompson issued a statement about the January 6 United States Capitol attack. In the statement, he wrote, "There must be a thorough Congressional investigation into the clear and massive breakdowns in preparedness and response. My Committee has been examining the threat from domestic terrorism, right-wing extremism, and white nationalism for ten years and this will be at the top of our agenda for the new Congress."[24]

On February 13, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced plans for a bicameral commission to investigate the attack on the Capitol, modeled after the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission), an independent panel that investigated the attacks of September 11, 2001. The 9/11 Commission was created in 2002 by Congress and issued a detailed report on its findings 15 months later.[25][26] Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tasked Thompson and John Katko, the House Homeland Security Committee's highest-ranking members, with negotiating the commission's establishment resolution. Despite initial bipartisan support for a commission, by March, disputes between Democrats and Republicans over the proposed investigation's scope and whether the commission would have an equal number of members from each party stalled the commission's creation.[27]

On May 14, 2021, Thompson and Katko announced H.R. 3233, The National Commission to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol Complex Act.[28] The resolution introduced to the House on May 19 met all Republican objections; it contained an equal number of members from each party, required approval of both parties to issue subpoenas, and set a firm deadline of December 31, 2021, to complete the report.[29] The bill to form the commission passed the House, 252–175, with 35 Republicans and every Democrat supporting it.[30] On May 28, Senate Republicans used a filibuster to block taking up the bill. Thompson issued a statement denouncing Senate Republicans, calling it appalling that Mitch McConnell allowed the bill to be filibustered even after hearing from Officer Brian Sicknick's mother and her support for the bill.[31]

On July 1, 2021, Speaker Nancy Pelosi chose Thompson to chair the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack.[32] According to Thompson's friends and advisors, his national security expertise qualified him to chair the Committee.[33] As chair, Thompson had the sole authority to sign and issue a subpoena. According to a Congressional Research Service survey, this was the only active House committee with this authorization in the 117th Congress, found under Section 5: Procedures in H.Res 503, as most House committees can issue and authorize subpoenas only with a majority vote of the committee/subcommittee or by consulting the ranking minority member. Most House committees can have a member designated by the committee to authorize subpoenas.[34]

Committee assignments[edit]

For the 118th Congress:[35]

  • Committee on Homeland Security (Ranking Member)
    • As Ranking Member of the Committee, Rep. Thompson is entitled to sit as an ex officio member in any subcommittee hearing, per the committee's rules.

Caucus memberships[edit]

Legislation sponsored[edit]

Electoral history[edit]

Mississippi's 2nd congressional district: Results 1993–2022[40][41][42]
Year Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1993 Bennie Thompson Democratic 72,561 55.2% Hayes Dent Republican 58,995 44.8%
1994 Bennie Thompson Democratic 68,014 53.7% Bill Jordan Republican 49,270 38.9% Vincent Thornton U.S. Taxpayers Party 9,408 7.4%
1996 Bennie Thompson Democratic 102,503 59.6% Dana Covington Republican 65,263 38.0% William Chipman Libertarian 4,167 2.4%
1998 Bennie Thompson Democratic 80,284 71.2% William Chipman Libertarian 32,533 28.8%
2000 Bennie Thompson Democratic 112,777 65.1% Hardy Caraway Republican 54,090 31.2% William Chipman Libertarian 4,305 2.5% Lee Dilworth Reform 4,167 2.4%
2002 Bennie Thompson Democratic 89,913 55.1% Clinton LeSueur Republican 69,711 42.8% Lee Dilworth Reform 3,426 2.1%
2004 Bennie Thompson Democratic 154,626 58.4% Clinton LeSueur Republican 107,647 40.6% Shawn O'Hara Reform 2,596 1.0%
2006 Bennie Thompson Democratic 100,160 64.3% Yvonne Brown Republican 55,672 35.7%
2008 Bennie Thompson Democratic 201,606 69.1% Richard Cook Republican 90,364 30.9%
2010 Bennie Thompson Democratic 105,327 61.5% Bill Marcy Republican 64,499 37.6% Ashley Norwood Reform 1,530 .9%
2012 Bennie Thompson Democratic 214,978 67.1% Bill Marcy Republican 99,160 31.0% Cobby Williams Independent 4,605 1.4% Lajena Williams Reform 1,501 0.5%
2014 Bennie Thompson Democratic 100,688 67.7% Troy Ray Independent 36,465 24.5% Shelley Shoemake Reform 11,493 7.7%
2016 Bennie Thompson Democratic 192,343 67.1% John Boule Republican 83,542 29.1% Troy Ray Independent 6,918 2.4% Johnny McLeod Reform 3,823 1.3%
2018 Bennie Thompson Democratic 158,921 71.8% Troy Ray Independent 48,104 21.7% Irving Harris Reform 14,354 6.5%
2020 Bennie Thompson Democratic 196,331 66.2% Brian Flowers Republican 101,037 33.9%
2022 Bennie Thompson Democratic 108,285 60.1% Brian Flowers Republican 71,884 39.9%

National politics[edit]

Thompson was the Permanent Chair of the 2020 Democratic National Convention.[43]

Lawsuit against Trump[edit]

On February 16, 2021, on behalf of Thompson, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed a federal lawsuit accusing Donald Trump of inciting violence on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol assault. The suit came three days after Trump was acquitted in the second Senate impeachment trial for inciting the riot. After the acquittal, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said in a speech he voted to acquit Trump because he believes the Senate cannot try a former president, but encouraged litigation against Trump, saying: "We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one."[44] Included in the lawsuit as defendants are Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and the two organizations the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. The lawsuit alleges that, by preventing Congress "by the use of force, intimidation, and threat" from carrying out its constitutional duties (the 2021 United States Electoral College vote count) Trump, Giuliani and the two hate groups violated the 1871 Third Enforcement Act (also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act).[45][46][47]

Personal life[edit]

Thompson is married to London Johnson of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, and has a daughter, BendaLonne, a granddaughter, Jeanna, and a grandson, Thomas.[48] He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity (Gamma Rho – Tougaloo College) and a lifetime member of the Asbury United Methodist Church in Bolton.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Rep. Bennie Thompson". GovTrack. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Committee on House Administration, U.S. House of Representatives (2008). Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 736. ISBN 978-0-16-080194-5 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ a b c Joint Committee on Printing, United States Congress (2011). Official Congressional Directory of the 112th Congress. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-1608-8653-9 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "3 Jan 1980, Page 15 - Clarion-Ledger at". Newspapers.com. January 3, 1980. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  5. ^ "31 Mar 1993, 1 - The Clarksdale Press Register at". Newspapers.com. March 31, 1993. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  6. ^ "14 Apr 1993, 1 - The Clarksdale Press Register at". Newspapers.com. April 14, 1993. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  7. ^ a b "Bush carries Electoral College after delay - Jan 6, 2005". CNN.com. January 6, 2005. Retrieved June 30, 2022.
  8. ^ Salvato, Albert (December 29, 2004). "Ohio Recount Gives a Smaller Margin to Bush". The New York Times.
  9. ^ "'We have to get it right,' Dem vows as Jan. 6 probe begins". The Independent. July 30, 2021. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
  10. ^ Fox, Lauren; Herb, Jeremy; Grayer, Annie; Nobles, Ryan (July 12, 2021). "'We'll do this work as long as it takes': Thompson readies for political fight leading Jan. 6 investigation". CNN. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
  11. ^ "11 House Members to Sue Over Budget Bill". Fox News. Associated Press. April 27, 2006. Archived from the original on April 7, 2021. Retrieved February 20, 2007.
  12. ^ "Judge Dismisses Budget Bill Lawsuit". ABC News. Associated Press. November 6, 2006. Archived from the original on February 3, 2009. Retrieved November 28, 2006.
  13. ^ "Gitmo transfer to Yemen in doubt". United Press International. December 27, 2009. Archived from the original on October 21, 2012. 'I'd, at a minimum, say that whatever we were about to do we'd at least have to scrub (those plans) again from top to bottom,' said House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.
  14. ^ Josh Gerstein (December 27, 2009). "Bomb plot complicates Gitmo plan". Politico. Archived from the original on November 6, 2013.
  15. ^ "H.R. 6129". govtrack.us.
  16. ^ Pete Kasperowicz (July 17, 2012). "House Dems look to ban auto insurers from using credit scores to set rates". The Hill.
  17. ^ "H.R. 6159". govtrack.us. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  18. ^ Pete Kasperowicz (July 20, 2012). "Dems would require pilot trainees to be checked against terror watchlist". The Hill. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  19. ^ "Rep. Thompson Moves to Close Flight Training Loophole". Helicopter Association International. July 23, 2012. Archived from the original on September 6, 2014. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  20. ^ "Congressional Chronicle". C-Span website Retrieved September 9, 2021.
  21. ^ Hicks, Josh (July 31, 2014). "Does the government have a problem with 'runaway' document classification?". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  22. ^ Moreno, J. Edward (April 1, 2020). "Democrats introduce bill to set up commission to review coronavirus response". The Hill. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  23. ^ Schultz, Marisa (March 4, 2021). "Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson explains why he was only Dem to vote against massive HR 1 election bill". Fox News. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
  24. ^ "Chairman Thompson Statement on Domestic Terrorist Attack on Capitol | House Committee on Homeland Security". Homeland.house.gov.
  25. ^ "Pelosi announces plans for '9/11-type commission' to investigate Capitol attack". Edition.cnn.com. February 15, 2021.
  26. ^ Meryl Kornfield; Karoun Demirjian; Mike DeBonis (February 16, 2021) [2021-02-15]. "Pelosi says there will be a 9/11 Commission-style panel to examine Jan. 6 Capitol riot". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. ISSN 0190-8286. OCLC 1330888409.[please check these dates]
  27. ^ "Partisan Haggling Dampens Urgent Calls for Jan. 6 Answers". Bloomberg.com. March 11, 2021.
  28. ^ "Chairman Thompson Announces Bipartisan Agreement with Ranking Member Katko to Create Commission to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the Capitol | House Committee on Homeland Security". Homeland.house.gov. Archived from the original on May 14, 2021. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  29. ^ Naylor, Brian (May 28, 2021). "Senate Republicans Block a Plan for an Independent Commission on Jan. 6 Capitol Riot". NPR.
  30. ^ "The House just voted to approve a bill to create a Jan. 6 commission. Here are key things to know". CNN. May 19, 2021.
  31. ^ "Senate Republicans Filibuster January 6 Commission Legislation and Fail to Stand up for Democracy | House Committee on Homeland Security". Homeland.house.gov.
  32. ^ Cowan, Richard; Lambert, Lisa (July 1, 2021). "Pelosi names Liz Cheney, veteran Democrats to U.S. panel probing Jan. 6 riot". Reuters. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  33. ^ Lee O. Sanderlin. (September 8, 2021). "Bennie Thompson can do the job: How the Congressman's career prepared him for Jan. 6 investigation". Clarion Ledger website Retrieved September 9, 2021.
  34. ^ "A Survey of House and Senate Committee Rules on Subpoenas" (PDF). Sgp.fas.org. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
  35. ^ "Bennie G. Thompson". Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. Retrieved August 17, 2023.
  36. ^ "Membership". Congressional Black Caucus. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
  37. ^ "Members". Afterschool Alliance. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  38. ^ "H.R. 1204 – Summary". United States Congress. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  39. ^ Schultz, Marisa (May 1, 2018). "'I can't afford an apartment': Congressmen sleeping in offices cry poverty". New York Post. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  40. ^ "Candidate Details". Ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved November 26, 2014.
  41. ^ "Election Results". Sos.md.gov. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  42. ^ "2016 General Election Results". Archived from the original on December 27, 2016. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  43. ^ Glauber, Mary Spicuzza and Bill (June 24, 2020). "DNC announces sweeping changes to convention, but Biden will still accept nomination in Milwaukee". USA TODAY. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
  44. ^ "NAACP | NAACP Files Federal Lawsuit Accusing Trump and Giuliani of Inciting U.S. Capitol Riot". NAACP. February 16, 2021.
  45. ^ Karni, Annie (February 16, 2021). "N.A.A.C.P. Sues Trump and Giuliani Over Election Fight and Jan. 6 Riot". The New York Times. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
  46. ^ Lucas, Ryan (February 16, 2021). "House Democrat Sues Trump, Giuliani And 2 Far-Right Groups Over Capitol Riot". NPR.
  47. ^ "Democratic lawmaker sues Trump for violating KKK Act over riot". Aljazeera.com.
  48. ^ "About". Congressman Bennie Thompson. December 3, 2012. Retrieved August 23, 2018.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Mississippi's 2nd congressional district

Preceded by Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee
Succeeded by
New office Chair of the House January 6th Committee
Position abolished
Party political offices
Preceded by Permanent Chair of the Democratic National Convention
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by United States representatives by seniority
Succeeded by