HUGH SMITH THOMPSON was born in Charleston, South Carolina. He graduated from The Citadel in Charleston just a few years before the Civil War broke out. From 1858 to 1861 he taught at the Arsenal Academy in South Carolina, and from 1861 to 1865 he was an instructor at The Citadel and commanded a battalion of Cadets that on January 9, 1961 fired the first gun of the Civil War against Star of the West as it attempted to relieve the Federal Army garrison at Fort Sumter. After the war ended Thompson was the Principal of Columbia Male Academy until 1876. He also was South Carolina’s Superintendent of Education from 1876 until 1881, when he was elected governor. His administration was marked by proposals for tax reform, economic stability, and educational development. Thompson served two years of a second gubernatorial term and then resigned in 1886 after being appointed Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury by President Grover Cleveland. He held that post until 1889, when he was appointed to the U.S. Civil Service Commission by President Benjamin Harrison. After serving as a Civil Service Commissioner for three years, he became comptroller of the New York Life Insurance company, a position that he held for more than a decade.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 24. New York: James T. White & Company.