NASHVILLE, Tenn. — All but one of Tennessee’s congressional delegation members want the new federal courthouse in Nashville to be named after the late actor-politician Fred Thompson, but the lone holdout says there’s no need to rush.
Rep. Jim Cooper, a Nashville Democrat who lost to Thompson in the 1994 Senate race, is the only one of the 11 delegation members not to sign on to legislation to dedicate the building to the Lawrenceburg native who died last year at age 73.
“I am not against Fred Thompson,” Cooper said in an email. “He beat me fair and square decades ago. I am not against it being named for a Republican.
“But is rushing through a bill at the last minute in Congress, without any public input or discussion, the best we can do?”
Cooper said it should be up people in Middle Tennessee to decide the name of the courthouse that’s being built after years of delays. And if they end up choosing Thompson, Cooper said he’d have “no problem” with that.
Thompson was a Tennessee-trained lawyer, prosecutor, hard-driving Senate counsel during the Watergate hearings, movie and TV actor and even a fleeting presidential hopeful in 2008. He commanded audiences with a booming voice, folksy charisma and a 6-foot-6 frame.
Thompson starred the “Law & Order” TV series and appeared in at least 20 motion pictures including “In the Line of Fire,” ”The Hunt for Red October,” ”Die Hard II” and “Cape Fear,” while also fostering a lobbying career in Washington. Upon his return home in early 1990s to run for the Senate, Thompson leased what would become his signature red truck to drive around the state to cast himself as a man of the people.
Cooper at the time derided the truck as a cynical prop to deflect attention from Thompson’s inside-the-Beltway status, arguing that his Republican opponent was in fact a “Gucci-wearing, Lincoln-driving, Perrier-drinking, Grey Poupon-spreading millionaire Washington special-interest lobbyist.”
Thompson nevertheless ended up winning more than 60 percent of the vote.
Republican Lamar Alexander, who succeeded Thompson in the Senate after Thompson decided not to seek a second full term in 2002, said he could think of no better person to name the courthouse after.
“It is appropriate to name the new federal courthouse in honor of Fred’s distinguished career as an attorney, Senate investigator, and United States Senator,” Alexander said.
Fellow Republican Sen. Bob Corker agreed.
“Through his many different roles in public life, Fred never forgot where he came from, and our state and country miss his commonsense approach to public service,” Corker said.
Rep. Steve Cohen, the only other Democratic member of the Tennessee delegations beside Cooper, said partisan questions didn’t enter into consideration for naming the courthouse.
“Despite our political differences, Fred was always encouraging to me and I valued our friendship,” Cohen said. “He led an eclectic life from his time as an outstanding congressional staffer during the Watergate hearings and as a fine attorney, actor, and public servant.
“His was a life very well lived,” Cohen said.