MELVIN ERNEST THOMPSON, Georgia's first lieutenant governor, was born in Millen, Georgia, on May 1, 1903. He attended Piedmont College, and graduated from Emory University in 1926. He pursued postgraduate studies at the University of Chicago, the University of Alabama, Peabody College, and the University of Georgia, where he earned a master's degree. Thompson then embarked on a successful career in education. After serving as principal, coach, superintendent, state school supervisor and assistant state superintendent of schools, he entered politics. He served on Governor Ellis Arnall's campaign, was the governor's executive secretary from 1943 to 1945, served as the state revenue commissioner from 1945 to 1947, and was elected Georgia's first lieutenant governor in 1946. Shortly before his inauguration, Governor-elect Eugene Talmadge passed away, and the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that Thompson, who was lieutenant governor at the time, was to assume the duties of governor's office (Talmadge's son, Herman Eugene Talmadge had assumed his father's office, but had to leave office after the state supreme court ruling). During Thompson's tenure, the University of Georgia's veterinary medical school was constructed as well as Georgia Tech's engineering building; teacher salaries were raised, and the state purchased Jekyll Island, which was successfully turned into a year-round public resort. Governor Thompson was unsuccessful in his 1948 reelection bid and left office on November 17, 1948. He retired from politics after two failed gubernatorial bids in 1950 and 1954. In 1951, he served for a short time as the regional director of the Wage and Price Stabilization Board. Governor Melvin E. Thompson died on October 3, 1980, and was entombed in a mausoleum at Lakeview Cemetery in Valdosta, Georgia.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.