A longtime friend called Horatio Thompson “the nicest person you’d want to know” and, maybe, “Baton Rouge’s first black millionaire.”
“If he wasn’t the first, I can’t think who the first would have been,” said Huel Perkins, 87, former LSU executive assistant to the chancellor.
Thompson, a civic-minded businessman, died Saturday at 98.
Thompson, son of a New Orleans railway postal clerk, was a 1937 graduate of Southern University. His businesses included a dorm room drugstore, taxi cabs, gasoline stations, electrical appliances and real estate.
“Back in 1951,” Thompson said in a 1995 profile, “there was no Civil Rights Act and no first-class homes for black people. We were able to buy 500 acres from Fred Benton Sr. and divide it into five-acre tracts which we sold.”
Thompson took part in the 1953 Baton Rouge bus boycott. He provided gas at cost to drivers of private automobiles. In the ’60s, Mayor-President Jack Christian named Thompson to the city’s Bi-Racial Committee.
John Noland, chairman of the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, and his wife, Virginia, endowed a professorship at Southern in Thompson’s name.
“He took a businessman’s approach to successful resolution rather than confrontation,” Noland said. “He’s one of Baton Rouge’s 24-karat heroes.”
“He was the quintessential, elegant gentleman,” said John Davies, Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s president and CEO. “If he said something, you had to consider what he said. There were layers to what he said.”
Thompson is survived by daughters Phyllis White, Paula Honoré, and three grandchildren.
“He was a person who enjoyed life, a people person and a hard-working businessman. He loved his grandchildren and enjoyed spending time with his family,” White said.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete.