Bennie G. Thompson, (born January 28, 1948) is the U.S. Representative for Mississippi’s 2nd congressional district, serving since 1993, and the ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security since 2011. He is a member of the Democratic Party.
The district includes most of Jackson and is the only majority-black district in the state. The district is approximately 275 miles (443 km) long, 180 miles (290 km) wide and borders the Mississippi River. The Mississippi Delta comprises the vast majority of the 2nd District. He is both the first Democrat and the first African American to chair the Homeland Security Committee in the House.
Early life, education and career
Thompson is a lifelong resident of Bolton, near Jackson. He attended Hinds County public schools before earning degrees from Tougaloo College and Jackson State University. He served as an alderman, then mayor of Bolton before being elected to the Hinds County Board of Supervisors.
U.S. House of Representatives
- Committee on Homeland Security(Ranking Member)
- As Ranking Member of the full committee, Rep. Thompson may serve as an ex officio member of all subcommittees.
Thompson also belongs to the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressional Rural Caucus, Congressional Sunbelt Caucus, Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Caucus, Congressional Travel & Tourism Caucus, and the Tennessee Valley Authority Caucus. He also is involved in the Congressional Children’s Working Group and the National Guard & Reserve Components Congressional Members Organization.
Thompson entered a crowded seven-way special election held on April 13, 1993 after Mike Espy gave up the seat to become Secretary of Agriculture. With five other Democrats splitting the vote, he finished second behind Republican Hayes Dent with 28 percent of the vote. He then defeated Dent in the April 13 runoff with 55 percent of the vote. He won the seat in his own right in 1994 and has been reelected eight times. He has only faced serious opposition twice, when journalist Clinton LeSueur held him to 55 percent in 2002 and 58 percent in 2004.
Thompson became an outspoken advocate for the Gulf Coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit in 2005. From his position on the Homeland Security Committee, he pushed for accountability at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and a careful review of the role of the Red Cross in the time of disaster. He also pursued waste, fraud, and abuse in hurricane contracting and called for preferences to be given to small and Gulf Coast businesses in the recovery and rebuilding of the affected states. Thompson is the founding Member of the bipartisan Gulf Coast Recovery & Rebuilding Caucus in the House of Representatives.
Thompson’s voting record has been decidedly liberal; he is arguably one of the most liberal congressmen ever to represent Mississippi. He is a founding member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. His legislative platform focuses mainly on homeland security, civil rights, agriculture and rural issues, equal education and health care reform. In 1975, he became one of the original plaintiffs in the Ayers Case, which concerned the adequate funding of predominantly black educational institutes in Mississippi. In 2000, Thompson wrote legislation that created the National Center for Minority Health and Health Care Disparities.
During his tenure as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Thompson focused on assuring that state and local officials, as well as first responders (fire, police, EMTs), got the resources they needed to protect their communities. Thompson was particularly concerned about local officials getting adequate resources, having been a volunteer firefighter and a local elected official for 24 years.
Along with John Conyers, in April 2006, Thompson brought an action against George W. Bush and others alleging violations of the Constitution in the passing of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. The case (Conyers v. Bush) was ultimately dismissed.
On January 5, 2007, Thompson introduced H.R.1, “Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007,” the first bill of the 110th Congress. The bill, cosponsored by more than 100 House Members, provided for the implementation of the 9/11 Commission’s remaining recommendations. It included provisions requiring major improvements in aviation security, border security, and infrastructure security; providing first responders the equipment and training they need; beefing up efforts to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction; and significantly expanding diplomatic, economic, educational, and other strategies designed to counter terrorism. The bill had bipartisan support and passed 299-128 on January 9, 2007. On July 27, 2007, the Conference Report on H.R. 1 passed the House overwhelmingly, 371-40. The previous day, it had passed the Senate 85-8. The President signed H.R. 1 into law on August 3, 2007.
With the passage of H.R. 1, Thompson is the first African-American Chairman of a House Committee to have a House-Senate Conference on the first bill introduced in either the House or the Senate in any given Congress.
On December 27, 2009, commenting on reports that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who had allegedly tried to set off a suicide bomb on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on December 25, 2009, had subsequently confessed to being trained and equipped in Yemen, Thompson called for a halt to all current plans with regard to Yemen in light of Abdulmutullab’s ties there, including plans to repatriate approximately 80 Yemeni captives in Guantanamo.
Thompson joined the House of Representatives in April 1993, after winning a special election for the 2nd Congressional seat, which became vacant when Representative Mike Espy resigned. He was elected to a full term in 1994, and has been reelected six times.
Thompson is married to the former London Johnson of Mound Bayou, Mississippi and has one daughter, BendaLonne, one granddaughter, Jeanna. and one grandson, Thomas. Thompson is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity (Gamma Rho – Tougaloo College) and a lifetime member of the Asbury United Methodist Church in Bolton. He is also an avid hunter and outdoorsman.