James M. Thomson

Jim Thomson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on August 9, 1924. He was graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1947 and the University of Virginia School of Law in 1950. Thomson began his practice of the law in Alexandria, Virginia. He was married to Sarah Edna Jennings. His sister, Gretchen Bigelow Thomson, was married to Harry F. Byrd, Jr. Jim Thomson was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1956 and as one of the youngest and newest delegates in the legislature attended the August 1956 Special Session that enacted the massive resistance laws. Thomson chaired the Committee on Law Reform and Racial Activities, appointed by the General Assembly to investigate the NAACP and those organizations challenging Virginia's segregation practices. In addition, Thomson held a firm line on segregation. After the February 1959 court decisions that struck down the massive resistance laws as unconstitutional, Thomson continued to believe that "the clock can be turned back" and that segregated schools would be restored in Virginia. (Washington Post, February 15, 1959) For his loyalty to the Byrd Organization, Thomson received key appointments to important committees in the House of Delegates. Of the delegates from Northern Virginia, Thomson stood out for his unflagging support of the Byrd group. In 1961 he faced a bitter reelection fight for the Democratic nomination from Denis K. Lane, an anti-Byrd organization challenger promoting increased funding for schools and transportation services. In the election Thomson lost by 4 votes, only to have a special recount ordered by the State Supreme Court of Appeals. The final recount called Thomson the winner by just one vote. He remained in the House from 1956 to 1977 and served as Democratic majority leader from 1968 to 1977.