At a time of critical scarcity for strong local journalism and civil political discourse, Washington has lost a champion of both essential elements of civic life.
Alan Thompson exhibited devotion to public service as a highly respected longtime legislator and as a publisher of weekly newspapers in Cowlitz, Lewis and Wahkiakum counties. His four sons, James, Jonathan, Rowland and Sam, all followed him into public-service professions. He died at 92 in his home in Olympia July 28, leaving a legacy that reverberates beyond the Lower Columbia College library that bears his name, and the capitol colleagues who warmly remember Thompson’s courtesy and his signature bow ties.
Thompson worked extensively to build Washington’s community-college system, which is now among the finest in the nation. Hundreds of thousands of students each year benefit from the work Thompson and many others have put to provide a robust and accessible education at these 34 colleges.
Just as significantly, Thompson pressed to keep Washington’s state and local government records available for public inspection. He helped found the Washington Coalition for Open Government, a nonprofit that works to maintain accountability through preserving access to government records. Thompson has since 2011 been a namesake for WCOG’s annual award to a state lawmaker who has shown exceptional support for keeping records open.
That’s an apt tribute to a singularly influential figure. May it keep Thompson’s legacy alive for many years to come.