Former New Hampshire Gov. Meldrim Thomson, whose support of conservative causes outraged liberals while his fiery anti-tax stance brought him three terms in office, died Thursday. He was 89.
Thomson, who had Parkinson's disease and had suffered three heart attacks and a stroke in the 1990s, died at his home in Orford.
A onetime political science instructor who had an encyclopedic knowledge of political history, Thomson would deflect criticisms that he was stuck in the 19th century by saying his philosophy actually was older than that.
"Mel Thomson was Ronald Reagan before Ronald Reagan was president," said Charles Perkins, vice president of the editorial department of the Union Leader of Manchester, which supported Thomson throughout his career.
"Thomson and Reagan shared a common philosophy, but more than that, a straightforward style of political leadership, which resounded strongly with everyday people."
Governor from 1973 to 1979, serving three terms, Thomson drew support from ultraconservatives with positions that included suggesting nuclear weapons for the state National Guard. He once called the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. "a man of immoral character whose frequent association with leading agents of communism is well established."
But Thomson also drew votes for his strong anti-tax stance--to this day, New Hampshire neither an income tax nor a sales tax--and for his philosophy of independence from federal influence.
Born in Wilkinsburg, Pa., he grew up in Georgia and Florida. He got his first taste of electoral politics as a school board member while living in New York state. He came to New Hampshire in 1955.
By 1966, Thomson had become so opposed to big government that he helped persuade his local school board to reject federal aid for a remedial reading program.
He made unsuccessful tries for the GOP nomination for governor in 1968 and 1970, then ran unsuccessfully in 1970 as the candidate of George Wallace's American Party.
He won the GOP nomination in 1972, then took the governorship.