Rep. Bennie Thompson’s black voter powerbase crucial for Senate Democrats


BOLTON – In the 1960s, Bennie Thompson, a then Tougaloo College political science student, was in the Mississippi Delta trying to register people to vote on behalf of civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer’s congressional bid.
“I was talking to my mother, and she was saying you know we don’t vote here in Bolton,” Thompson recalled late one afternoon sitting in a modest conference room in his congressional office in tiny Bolton in western Hinds County. “It was a shock to me that I was up in Sunflower County helping register black people to vote and even in my hometown they didn’t enjoy the same luxury.”
Thompson’s auto mechanic father, who died in 1964, the year of passage of the federal Voting Rights Act designed to ensure minorities were not denied the right to vote, never voted. His mother, a school teacher, did and most likely her first vote cast was for her son when he ran and was elected to the board of aldermen in his hometown of Bolton in 1969.
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson
While Thompson won that election as he has the multiple elections since then, it took a ruling of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to force the local election commission to seat him and two other African Americans in the Bolton city government.
It could be argued that Thompson has progressed from that first election to become for the past 25 years the most powerful African American politician in Mississippi. He has since 1993 represented the majority black 2nd Congressional District, which he proudly points out is the district where Hamer ran, albeit unsuccessfully, those many years ago.
On the walls of the reception area of Thompson’s Bolton congressional office are an array of items ranging from black empowerment paintings to a rather large mounted deer head to photos