Fred Thompson Dies: ‘Law & Order’ Actor, Senator, Watergate Lawyer Was 73

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Fred Thompson, former U.S. senator and longtime actor in the TV series Law & Order has died. Thompson, who died in Nashville after a recurrence of lymphoma, was 73, according to a statement released today by his family.

Thompson was born in 1942 in Sheffield, Alabama but grew up across the state line in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. Eventually working in Washington, he served as an attorney during President Nixon’s Watergate scandal. In 1977 Thompson represented the whistleblower in one of Tennessee’s biggest political scandals. Parole administrator Marie Rigghianti was fired after refusing to release inmates that were pardoned after paying then-Gov. Ray Blanton. Thompson won her a settlement and reinstatement to her job in 1978.

The case became the subject of a book and launched Thompson’s acting career. He played himself in the 1985 version of the movie Marie. More roles soon followed. In addition to Days of Thunder with Tom Cruise, Thompson appeared in The Hunt for Red October with Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin and Die Hard 2 with Bruce Willis and in Martin Scorsese’s version of Cape Fear. Additional roles included the films In The Line of Fire, Born Yesterday and the HBO movie Barbarians at the Gate. He also enjoyed a five-year run on NBC’s Law & Order as Arthur Branch from 2002-2007, as well as numerous other guest-starring roles in other TV series.

A Republican, he won a special election for senator in 1994 to serve the remainder of then Vice President Al Gore’s term and was re-elected in 1996. Thompson ran for president as in 2007 but withdrew early the following year.

More recently Thompson appeared in the 2012 horror movie Sinister, and had a recurring role on NBC’s short-lived 2015 series Allegiance.

“Very few people can light up the room the way Fred Thompson did,” Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander said today in a statement. “He used his magic as a lawyer, actor, Watergate counsel, and United States senator to become one of our country’s most principled and effective public servants. He was my friend for nearly fifty years. I will miss him greatly. Honey and I and our entire family send our love and sympathy to Jeri and the Thompson family.”

Thompson is survived by his son Fred Thompson Jr., who goes by Tony; his wife Jeri and their two young children.

A sampling of Tweets on the passing of Fred Thompson:

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