Fred Thompson was larger than life
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Much like President Reagan before him, Fred Thompson has left this Earth but will live on through motion pictures, TV reruns, C-SPAN archives and an abundance of tweets, quotes and historical videos.

People often use the phrase "comfortable in his own skin," but Fred may have been the standard-bearer of this adage in modern American politics.

When Fred decided to run as a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1994, he simply stood by a fence post, looked straight into the camera and shared his thoughts on the future of Tennessee and the nation — no fancy graphics, consultants or gimmicks; just a an honest conversation. Then he hopped into a red pickup truck and drove himself across the state. The people absolutely loved it. His political opponents were paralyzed. Their only rebut was that he had forgotten to put his seat belt on. He laughed all the way to Washington.


Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett once compared voters' attraction to candidates to a dog and a bowl of food. He said the dog will approach the food, look at it, smell it and either eat it or shake his head and walk away. Really, it is just charisma. Fred Thompson had charisma oozing out of every pore of his body. His voice, stature, sense of humor, demeanor, confidence and low blood pressure complimented his steely resolve.

Fred was truly larger than life. He will be sorely missed in our state and nation. American politics needs more statesmen like him.

My election to Congress took place on the same day Fred became a U.S. Senator. One of the great privileges of my life was to become his friend. We wrote legislation together, served the people of Tennessee together and shared many a laugh (usually at my expense).

When Fred decided to run for president in 2008, I recruited almost 50 members of the House of Representatives to stand with him. We all joked later that we were a lot more fired up for Fred than Fred was fired up to run. But we all knew that he would have made a great president; he was just not willing to fight for it. My opinion is that some of his fight was lost with the death of his only daughter, Elizabeth "Betsy" Thompson Panici, in early 2002 at age 38. Being with Fred and the family that day, I felt this big, strong leader among leaders became more reflective than ever about family and friends — the real meaning and purpose in life. Fred had a big heart and losing Betsy definitely broke his heart and for a while dampened his spirit.

However, a few months later, Fred got a huge new lease on life when he married a real firecracker in the smart and sassy Jeri Kehn. They had a daughter, Hayden, and a son, Sammy. Fred not only got a bounce back in his step, but I believe the last 13 years of his life were his happiest. He enjoyed his time away from politics, his friends and family more than ever, and writing or saying whatever was on his mind. Even to the very end, Fred Thompson enjoyed being Fred Thompson.

Fred Dalton Thompson lived life to its absolute fullest. He will be greatly missed but never forgotten. Farewell for now, Fred. We'll all keep laughing and loving 'til we see you again. Thanks for the memories.

Wamp was a member of Congress from 1995 to 2011 and is president of Zach Wamp Consulting.