News & Events
Roosevelt Thompson was a gifted young man who had a bright future in public service before his death in an automobile accident in 1984. This year is the 35th anniversary of Thompson's graduation from Little Rock Central High School, where he was student body president, an All-Star football player, and a National Merit Scholar.
We've asked those who knew Roosevelt Thompson to send us their recollections and thoughts about this beloved Arkansan. Below is a sampling of those responses:
"My memories of him are much more on a religious level. We were members of the same church where his father was Pastor. He was an exceptional young man. He was always studious with a very pleasant attitude and a catching smile. I also believe he would have been our first African American governor. We all were so proud of him but not as much as his father. He bubbled with pride whenever Rosey's name was mentioned."
former member of Cherry Street AME Zion Church
Pine Bluff, AR
"Roosevelt Thompson was a senior when my class, the Class of 1982, entered Central High. As Student Body President, he was our student body leader both in formal settings such as on stage in the auditorium as well as informally in the hallowed halls of our new school. He was funny and self deprecating as a leader, and he immediately made us newbies feel welcome and at home in that big school. He had a humble personal demeanor that was so endearing, because behind that humility lay a truly deep and brilliant soul. He also had a very goofy sense of humor and such a beautiful smile. In short, we underclassmen adored Roosevelt Thompson and we looked up to him more than he ever knew. He set a tone at Central High for us that we sought to meet for our entire tenure there. I hope we succeeded.
One way that Roosevelt impacted our class was that he set a very high standard for the types of colleges we should seek to attend. Part of this may be because he made getting into Yale look so easy, although I am sure it was not. He set a clear example for those of us who were motivated students, and we believed that we could gain acceptance at any college. Because of Roosevelt, we simply did not know differently – anything seemed possible. He left us with an expectation that we must shoot for the stars, as though it was our individual and personal duty as Little Rock Central High School graduates to show the world that kids from a school that had previously been part of a terrible chapter in Civil Rights history could in fact go out into the world and succeed. We carried this banner high. We got the message from Roosevelt's sheer persona and demeanor – and he never had to speak that message – that we were to go out into the world and disprove common perceptions of Arkansas as backwards and racist and we were to succeed. I hope to God we have done that because, as it turned out after his tragic loss, that he was also preparing us to attempt to carry his banner too.
I have thought many, many times over the years that America, and Arkansas in particular, would be a far better place if Roosevelt had survived."
Megan DeLamar Schroeder
"I was struck by the emotional power of the comments made by people who had taught Roosevelt Thompson, offered at our program on his life on June 3, 2015. An old friend of mine who is a teacher says he never enters a classroom without thinking of one of his great teachers from college, and you often hear tributes of teachers offered by former students. But I've never heard tributes of a former student offered so movingly by that student's teachers. It was an honor to be in the room with those people."
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
Central Arkansas Library System