Biography of William Pressley Thompson

William Pressley Thompson, a representative of one of the honored pioneer families of Oklahoma, was for many years prominent in the affairs of the Cherokee Nation, and for over two decades he has been a member of the Vinita bar, being recognized as one of the most able attorneys in northeastern Oklahoma. He was born on a cotton plantation in Smith county, Texas, November 19, 1866, his parents being James Franklin and Caroline E. (McCord) Thompson, the former a native of Georgia and the latter of Mississippi, and both now deceased. The father accompanied the Cherokees on their removal to Indian Territory in 1837 and for a time he followed the profession of teaching. When still a young man he went to Texas, where he engaged in merchandising, milling and lumbering, and in that state his marriage occurred. Following the outbreak of the Civil war he enlisted and served under Colonel Patrick Cleburn, Granberry’s brigade, with General Hood’s army, and was wounded in the engagement at Franklin, Tennessee, in 1864, being sent for treatment to a hospital at Nashville, that state. After recovering from his injuries he participated in the siege of Richmond, Virginia, and upon receiving his discharge from the service returned to Texas. In 1869 he took up his residence in the Delaware district of the Cherokee Nation, in Indian Territory, where he followed the occupation of farming until his demise in 1874. He became an influential and prominent figure in public affairs and was a member of the citizenship commission of the Cherokee Nation.

William P. Thompson spent the period of his boyhood upon the home farm in Delaware county, attending the public schools of the neighborhood, and in 1884, when seventeen years of age, was graduated with the B. S. degree from the Cherokee National Male Seminary at Tahlequah. For a year thereafter he engaged in teaching school and then entered Vanderbilt University at Nashville, Tennessee, which conferred upon him the LL. B. degree in 1889, on the completion of a four years’ course. He first opened an office at Muskogee, Oklahoma, where he remained for two years, and in 1891 removed to Tahlequah, becoming a member of the firm of Bondinot, Thompson & Hastings, with which he was identified until 1899. Meanwhile he had been active in the affairs of the Cherokee Nation, serving as clerk of the lower house during 1889 and 1890, and for a short time was clerk of the senate. Later he acted as secretary of the treasury and for two years was executive secretary of Chief C. J. Harris, and then United States Commissioner at Tahlequah, while he also was attorney for the Cherokee Nation at that place. In 1898 he was sent as their representative to Washington, appearing before congress in connection with legislation affecting their nation, and he was secretary of the first commission of Cherokee to treat with the Dawes commission, rendering most important and effective service in these important capacities.

In 1899 Mr. Thompson came to Vinita and with the passing years his practice has steadily increased as he has demonstrated his ability to cope with intricate and involved legal problems. He has a thorough knowledge of statute and precedent, is careful in the preparation of cases and convincing in argument and has been entrusted with much important litigation. In addition to his professional activities, Mr. Thompson is a director of the Vinita National Bank, a stockholder of the First State Bank and a stockholder and director of the Cherokee and Mustang Oil and Gas Companies. He has farming interests in Texas and in several counties in northeastern Oklahoma and is also identified with oil production in this state and Texas. He likewise devotes considerable attention to the breeding of fine saddle horses and has stock sired by Rex McDonald, the most famous saddle horse in the world. He has exhibited his animals all over the state in competition with the best horses in the country and has won many premiums.

On the 14th of September, 1892, at Tahlequah, this state, Mr. Thompson was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth Clyde Morris, a Cherokee, whose birth occurred at Dalton, Georgia. Her father, Major James C. Morris, was an officer in the Confederate army, serving under General “Stonewall” Jackson. In early life he devoted his attention to agricultural pursuits but after the close of the Civil war engaged in merchandising at Birmingham, Alabama, and at Dalton, Georgia, being thus occupied until 1889, when he came to Indian Territory, establishing his home at Tahlequah, where his demise occurred in 1896. Mr. and Mrs. Thompson became the parents of two children. Sadie Pendleton, the elder, became the wife of John M. Kates, who was born at Claremore, Oklahoma, and became an officer in the United States navy. He was an instructor in navigation at the naval academy at Annapolis, Maryland, entering upon his duties just before the outbreak of the World war, and passed away in 1919, while filling that position. He had previously served at Asiatic stations and on South American coasts. His widow now makes her home with her father in Vinita. The younger daughter, Elizabeth Clyde, was graduated from the University of Oklahoma with the Bachelor of Science degree and is at home.

Mr. Thompson is a member of the Episcopal Church, and his political support is given to the Democratic Party. He has been active in its councils, serving as a delegate to the national convention from Indian Territory in 1896, while in 1920 he represented the state at the national gathering of the party, and he is now a member of the county central committee. His fraternal connections are with the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, the Knighs of Pythias and the Masons, and in the last named organization has taken the thirty-second degree. He is a member of the Vinita and Muskogee Country Clubs and is a devotee of golf, while he also finds diversion in hunting and fishing. He is loyal and patriotic in citizenship and during the World war served on the legal advisory board, while he also delivered addresses in various cities throughout northeastern Oklahoma in support of the Liberty Loan drives and other war measures. Endowed by nature with superior intellectual powers, he has demonstrated that he possesses exceptional qualifications as a lawyer and has won a position of distinction in the legal profession. He has also been identified with many other lines of activity, to all of which he has given his best energies, as it is a principle of his life never to undertake a thing unless it is worthy of thoughtful attention, and his is indeed a well rounded character.



Benedict, John Downing. Muskogee and Northeastern Oklahoma: including the counties of Muskogee, McIntosh, Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Rogers, Washington, Nowata, Craig, and Ottawa. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1922.

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