Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Adventures in the Archives: Dr. Richard Lee Thompson

Adventures in the Archives continues....

Here's a little more information about Dr. Richard Lee Thompson, whose papers are part of the archives at the library, pulled together by Crystal Stanley, our former Archives and Reference Assistant (now the Director of Library Services at Ranger College):

Richard Lee Thompson was born in Stephenville on November 4, 1925.  He was the youngest son of Robert Lee Thompson and Corinne Barkley.  They had married in 1920 and purchased a home located at 343 North McIlhaney Street in Stephenville, on the east side of the present-day Tarleton State University campus.

A photo posted by Tarleton State University (@tarletonstate) on

The Thompson house had belonged to James Cox, who became President of John Tarleton College in 1913.  Cox had the house built in 1915, and lived and worked in the house until the Thompsons purchased it from him in 1920.  The original price for the house and surrounding acre of property was $4,800.  The house has a second front door because it was the door to Cox’s Presidential office.  Most of the house itself is still the original construction, minus three fireplaces, which were taken out in 1937 and replaced with a natural gas heating unit.
Richard’s parents are credited with providing John Tarleton College a soda shop, called Campus Corner. His mother Corinne operated the establishment for 20 years. However, the Campus Corner did not make enough profits to keep open, and it was closed.

Richard Thompson graduated from Stephenville High School in 1943.  That same year, he enlisted into the U.S. Navy on his eighteenth birthday.  Six weeks later, he was drafted.  He served as a medic with the Marine Corps for three and a half years, from 1944 until 1946.  He participated in the invasion of Okinawa, Japan, where he spent one year of his service.

Upon returning home, he enrolled in John Tarleton College.  He then attended Southern Methodist University, where he worked as a student instructor in Biology.  After graduating, Dr. Thompson was accepted into the Baylor University Dental School.

Dr. Thompson practiced for ten years at the State Hospital in San Antonio and was working in the VA Hospital in Chicago when his father Robert died in 1969. He returned to Erath County and took over the family real estate business. Over the years, the Thompson family acquired the full block of property adjacent to Tarleton on McIlhaney and at times had as many as 22 renters living in the houses once there.

Dr. Thompson's mother Corrine Barkley Thompson passed away in 1984.  Thompson continued to live in the family home.  In 1998, Dr. Thompson donated six land parcels on McIlhaney to the university for use as parking for nearby dorms. He also donated a 20-foot magnolia tree moved from one of his rental properties to a location near Davis Hall. When renovations on the Trogdon House (then called the Hall of Presidents) were completed and a request was made for donations of authentic period furnishings, Dr. Thompson contributed items with  unique historical ties the furniture has to the University.  The Tarleton Alumni Association named him a Distinguished Friend at Homecoming in October 2002.

Dr. Richard L. Thompson passed away on Saturday, June 5, 2004.  In his will, he created a trust fund of $100,000, where the interest alone would pay for the upkeep of his family home.  His will further stipulated that the house and all the furnishings remain as is.  The house currently functions as the Tarleton State University Alumni Association building.

A photo posted by Tarleton State University (@tarletonstate) on

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