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This Day in Georgia History

May 01, 1903

Melvin Thompson Born

To view an image of Melvin Thompson, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Politician and educator Melvin Thompson was born in Millen, Georgia. Thompson began his career in Georgia’s public school system, working as a teacher and administrator from 1926-1937. He then worked for the State Department of Education for seven years, where he became knowledgeable of the political process through his attempts to secure passage of educational legislation. Thompson was a major organizer of Gov. Ellis Arnall’s 1942 campaign, and Arnall rewarded him with an appointment as his executive secretary before appointing him state revenue commissioner in 1945. Thompson was elected lieutenant governor in 1946, the first to hold this newly created position.But a storm of controversy soon followed this election, as Thompson became embroiled in Georgia’s infamous Three Governors Controversy after election winner Eugene Talmadge’s death before he could be inaugurated. Three different men claimed to be Georgia’s rightful governor, but eventually Thompson was declared governor by the Georgia Supreme Court. Thompson served for less than two years before losing to Herman Talmadge in a special election in 1948. Two other attempts at running for governor were unsuccessful, before Thompson retired to Valdosta to operate a successful real estate business. He died in Valdosta October 3, 1980. In reflecting back on his political career, Thompson felt his most significant accomplishment was the purchase of Jekyll Island on Oct. 7, 1947, for $675,000, a coup that has been likened to the United States’ purchase of Alaska.