Meldrim Thomson Jr.

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Meldrim Thomson Jr.
Meldrim Thomson.jpg
73rd Governor of New Hampshire
In office
January 4, 1973 – January 4, 1979
Preceded byWalter R. Peterson Jr.
Succeeded byHugh J. Gallen
Personal details
BornMarch 8, 1912 (1912-03-08)
Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedApril 19, 2001(2001-04-19) (aged 89)
Orford, New Hampshire, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Other political
American Independent (1970)
Spouse(s)Anne Gale Kelly

Meldrim Thomson Jr. (March 8, 1912 – April 19, 2001) was an American politician who served three terms as governor of the U.S. state of New Hampshire from 1973 to 1979. A Republican, he was known as a strong supporter of conservative political values.

Early life[edit]

Thomson was born in 1912 in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, the son of Meldrim and Marion (Booth) Thomson, and was raised in Georgia and Florida.[1] He was an Eagle Scout. Thomson attended Mercer University, Washington and Jefferson College, and the University of Georgia School of Law and was admitted to the practice of law in Florida in 1936.[2]

In 1938, he married his secretary, Anne Gale Kelly, and together they had six children.

Thomson made his fortune publishing law books. In 1952, he founded Equity Publishing Corp., which published the laws of New Hampshire, Vermont, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico in English and Spanish. In 1955, he moved his family to New Hampshire, where he became involved in local and state educational and tax issues.

Political career[edit]

In 1966, as chairman of the Orford School Board, Thomson refused to accept federal education aid because he said there were too many strings attached. He lost races for governor in Republican primaries in 1968 and 1970, running again in the 1970 general election on the third-party American Independent line of Alabama Governor George Wallace.[3] He finally won the governorship in 1972 after a campaign in which he pledged to veto any new sales or income tax that was put on his desk, and he further promised not to raise existing taxes.[4]

In his bid for re-election in 1978, Thomson lost to Democrat Hugh Gallen.[5] Thomson considered running for the presidency in 1980, but instead ran for governor, again losing to Gallen. In 1982 he ran for governor as an Independent, getting just 1.7% of the vote.[6]


Thomson and his wife meet with Senator Bob Smith

Thomson coined the slogans "Low taxes are the result of low spending" and "Ax the Tax" to represent his fiscal philosophy. He eventually became recognized as one of the most conservative governors in the nation. During his tenure, the state reinstituted the death penalty and abolished most of New Hampshire's taxes (income, capital gains, sales, etc.).

He was also a strong proponent of state sovereignty. When Thomson learned Massachusetts tax agents were at New Hampshire liquor stores taking down the numbers on cars with Massachusetts license plates, he had them arrested.[7] When he learned that Maine had arrested a Portsmouth, New Hampshire lobsterman, in Maine waters, he began what was known as the "Lobster war."[8] The conflict ended in the US Supreme Court with the drawing of an ocean boundary between the two states at the mouth of the Piscataqua River.[9]

In 1978, Thomson appointed David Souter to the Superior Court bench.

Thomson was a close ally of William Loeb III, the conservative publisher of the Manchester Union Leader, New Hampshire's only statewide newspaper.[citation needed]

Death and honors[edit]

Thomson died in 2001 aged 89 from Parkinson's Disease and heart problems in Orford, New Hampshire.

In 2002, the state named both a state building and state road in honor of Thomson. The state office complex on Hazen Drive in Concord was named "Meldrim Thomson Jr. State Office Complex." A 16-mile stretch of Route 25A, where his Mt. Cube Farm lined both sides of the road, was named the "Governor Meldrim Thomson Scenic Highway."


During his governorship, and thereafter, Thomson was criticized for a number of controversial actions:

  • in 1976 and 1977 he ordered the flag at the statehouse to flown at half-staff on Good Friday to "memorialise the death of Christ on the Cross." [1]
  • having an aide examine his political opponents' tax records, a move later invalidated by the New Hampshire Supreme Court
  • suggesting nuclear weapons for the state National Guard.[10]
  • during the 1977 anti-nuclear demonstrations in Seabrook, he dressed in military fatigues and was brought in by helicopter to order in person the arrest of 1,400 protesters.[11]
  • personally arresting speeders from his official car.[12]
  • visiting South Africa in 1978 and then praising the government and its apartheid policy.[13]
  • threatening to veto all funding for the University of New Hampshire in 1974 after the Gay Students Organization held a dance and performed a play on campus.[14]
  • sending out a press release in 1977 saying that he wanted journalists to keep the "Christ" in Christmas and not call it Xmas, which, he asserted, was a pagan spelling of Christmas, despite being a representation by the Greek letter chi.[15]
  • petitioning unsuccessfully, in 1990, that candidate Dick Swett (for New Hampshire's 2nd congressional district) be listed on the ballot as Lantos-Swett, the name he had used in the telephone book, voter registration, buying real estate, and business.[16]

Presidential bid[edit]

Thomson was one of Ronald Reagan's staunchest supporters in 1976, as the former California governor challenged President Gerald Ford for the Republican presidential nomination. Thomson was dismayed by Reagan's announcement that he would select moderate Republican Senator Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania as his running mate should he win the nomination.[17]

After he was defeated for re-election in 1978, Thomson left the Republican party to form his own Constitution Party. However, after getting on the ballot in Alabama, Kansas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Maine, his campaign contributions dried up when it was evident that Ronald Reagan was going to win the Republican nomination for president. Thomson then ended his campaign for president and returned to the Republican Party.[18]


  1. ^ "Meldrim Thomson, 91st governor of New Hampshire". New Hampshire Sunday News (Manchester, NH). April 22, 2001.
  2. ^ Bastedo (State Curator), Russell. "Publications - A Guide to Likenesses of New Hampshire Officials and Governors on Public Display at the Legislative Office Building and the State House Concord, New Hampshire, to 1998". New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources.
  3. ^ "For N.H. Gov. Thomson Says He Is Through Running For Public Office". Boston Globe. June 11, 1988.
  4. ^ "Meldrim Thomson, 91st governor of New Hampshire". New Hampshire Sunday News (Manchester, NH). April 22, 2001.
  5. ^ "NH Governor". Our Campaigns. Our Campaigns. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Bluer shades of granite -
  8. ^ NEW ENGLAND: Lobster War, TIME (July 2, 1973)
  9. ^ Kenneth T. Palmer, et al. Maine Politics and Government, pg. 190
  10. ^ Lisa Wangsness (July 2, 2007). "New Hampshire bedrock is listing to the left". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  11. ^ Steven Rosenberg (April 29, 2007). "Nuclear reaction". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  12. ^ Richard M. Detwiler (November 23, 1975). "Really a Bellwether?". The New York Times.
  13. ^ "Clergy raps N.H. Governor". The Spokesman-Review. January 30, 1978. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  14. ^ ("[I]indecency and moral filth will no longer be allowed on our campuses. I am not interested in legalistic hairsplitting that begs these important issues. Either you take firm, fair and positive action to rid your campuses of socially abhorrent activities or I, as governor, will stand solidly against the expenditure of one more cent of taxpayers' money for your institutions. Translated simply, that means that unless you take successful corrective action before the capital budget is reconsidered, I shall oppose the inclusion of any money therein for the University and will veto that budget, if necessary.") Gay Students Organization of University of New Hampshire v. Bonner, 367 F.Supp. 1088 (1974).
  15. ^ "X-mas is 'X'ing out Christ'". The Montreal Gazette. December 8, 1977. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  16. ^ The State of New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission (September 28, 1990). "Re: Meldrim Thomson Jr. vs. Dick Swett" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on May 4, 2009. Retrieved 2012-04-28.
  17. ^ "Former New Hampshire governor Meldrim Thomson Jr". The Washington Post. March 26, 1979.
  18. ^ "An Old Warrior Jousts in New Hampshire For Old Job". The New York Times. August 24, 1980.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Walter R. Peterson Jr.
Governor of New Hampshire
Succeeded by
Hugh J. Gallen