William Y. Thompson

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William Young Thompson

(Historian at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston)

William Y. Thompson of LA.jpg

Born October 15, 1922
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Died April 12, 2013 (aged 90)
Monroe, Louisiana
Spouse (1) Helen Sherard McCarly Thompson (married 1947-her death)

(2) Marie Meade Thompson
Children from first marriage:
Sherard Ellen Thompson ____
Richard Howard Thompson
Dawn and Don Alan Meade
Henry Howard and Frances Ellzey Thompson

William Young Thompson (October 15, 1922 – April 12, 2013)[1] was a historian who was affiliated for most of his academic career, from 1955 through 1988, with Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana. A specialist in the history of his native American South, Thompson served as chairman of the university history department from 1965 until his retirement in 1988.


Thompson was born in the capital city of Baton Rouge, to Henry Howard Thompson and the former Frances Ellzey. During World War II, he was from 1943-1945 a first lieutenant in the United States Army Air Corps, the forerunner of the Air Force. He served in the European Theatre of Operations. During the war, Thompson earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters.[2]

After his military service, Thompson completed his studies at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, Alabama, having received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1946. In 1946, he obtained the Master of Arts from Emory University, a Methodist-affiliated institution in Atlanta, Georgia. From 1950 to 1955, he was a professor at Presbyterian College in Clinton in Laurens County in northwestern South Carolina. While at Presbyterian College, he completed requirements for his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina.[2]

Robert Toombs of Georgia

Thompson's Robert Toombs of Georgia, originally subtitled: The Man Who Almost Became President of the Confederacy, grew from his master's thesis at Emory. The 1966 publication through Louisiana State University Press in Baton Rouge is based on the career of Robert Toombs (1810-1885) of Georgia, before, during, and after the American Civil War.[3]Thompson's writing is thorough and documented and emphasizes Toombs as an unrepentant Confederate who refused to take the loyalty oath after 1865 and remained an undisciplined individualist. Thompson recounts how Toombs before his death viewed the election of the Democrat Grover Cleveland as a vindication of southern virtue.[4]

Other academic achievements

In 1984, Thompson published E. M. Graham: North Louisianian, the study of the little known Evander McNair "Van" Graham, a teacher-turned-attorney who was reared in Alabama but settled in Union Parish, Louisiana. A reviewer of E.M. Graham concludes that there is "much need for historians of the local scene who sense in the life and deeds of less notable figures the stories that undergird a more accurate version of history."[5]On March 27, 1981, Thompson delivered a paper based on this book as the presidential address at the Louisiana Historical Association annual meeting held in Many, Louisiana.[5]He had been named the association president in 1980.[6]

Another Thompson work, through Louisiana Tech's McGinty Publications, is Israel Shreve: Revolutionary War Officer, a 100-page biography of the father of Captain Henry Miller Shreve, the namesake of Shreveport, Louisiana and the man who removed the log jam of the Red River. Israel Shreve, a Quaker, fought in the American Revolution.[7]Garnie William McGinty, for whom McGinty Publications is named, was Thompson's predecessor as Louisiana Tech history department chairman.

Thompson was a scholar of the American Civil War and wrote about how the conflict impacted individual troops: "The American volunteer soldier, entering the battles of the Civil War, faced an entirely different situation [from today's modern soldier]. Ahead lay death from enemy bullets. Behind him plodded a medical bureau inadequately equipped in materiel, spirit, and vision to protect him from destruction by disease."[8]In 1956, he published "The U.S. Sanitary Commission," a study of the forerunner of the American Red Cross, in the journal Civil War History.[9]In 1958, Civil War History published a second Thompson article, "Sanitary Fairs of the Civil War," a study of fund-raising activities to support the Sanitary Commission.[10]

In 1980, on the basis of "extraordinary service and performance in the areas of teaching, research, and/or service to the campus community and the public sector," Thompson was awarded a Louisiana Tech Foundation professorship through an anonymous vote of his colleagues. There is also an endowed professorship named for Thompson's colleague in the history department, John David Winters (1916-1997), author of The Civil War in Louisiana (1963).[11] The William Y. Thompson Endowed Scholarship at Louisiana Tech is named in his honor.[12]

Personal life

Thompson's first wife, the former Helen Sherard McCarly, whom he married on December 27, 1947,[2] died of cancer. The couple resided at 1504 Elizabeth Street in Ruston and had two children, Sherard Ellen and Richard Howard Thompson.[2] Thompson retired in Monroe thirty miles east of Ruston, with his second wife, Marie Meade Thompson (born c. 1936), the former wife of the late historian Carroll Wade Meade, a veteran of the Korean War, specialist in ancient history, and resident in his lat years of Tyler, Texas.

Thompson died at St. Francis Hospital in Monroe at the age of ninety and is interred at Greenwood Cemetery in Ruston.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Dr. William Y. Thompson. The Monroe News Star. Retrieved on March 28, 2018.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 William Y. Thompson, Who's Who in America Vol. 42 (1982-1983), (Chicago: Marquis Publishing Company, 1983), p. 3329.
  3. Catalogue. catalogue.nla.gov. Retrieved on June 24, 2010.
  4. William Y. Thompson, Robert Toombs of Georgia, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1966), Library of Congress No. 66-25722)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Book Reviews: E.M. Graham: North Louisianian. jstor.org. Retrieved on June 24, 2010.
  6. Presidents of the Louisiana Historical Association. lahistory.org. Retrieved on June 25, 2010.
  7. Israel Shreve: Revolutionary War Officer. history.latech.edu. Retrieved on June 26, 2010.
  8. Michael Horigan, Elmira: Death Camp of the North, p. 122. Google Books from Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Retrieved on June 26, 2010.
  9. William Y. Thompson, "The U.S. Sanitary Commission," Civil War History 2 (June 1956), pp. 41-63
  10. William Y. Thompson, "Sanitary Fairs of the Civil War," Civil War History 4 (March 1958), pp. 51-67.
  11. University Foundation Professorships. latech.edu. Retrieved on June 24, 2010.
  12. Louisiana Board of Regents Support Fund Endowed Professorships. webcache.googleusercontent.com. Retrieved on June 24, 2010.