Robert Smith Thompson
Robert Smith Thompson
  • November 28, 1937 - March 15, 2017
  • Columbia, South Carolina

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COLUMBIA - Robert Smith Thompson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, beloved husband of Judith Curfman Thompson, died March 15, 2017. He was the son of the late Dr. Milton Needham Thompson and Marian Smith Thompson of Cambridge Ohio. He was born on November 28, 1937 in East Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Thompson was a graduate of Oberlin College AB in History; Harvard University Graduate School, AM in Asian Studies; and University of Michigan, PhD in Political Science. In 1957 through 1958 he studied the politics of war at the London School of Economics, giving him one of his numerous lifelong interests while allowing him to spend countless hours wandering through the British Museum and other English museums, another lifelong passion.

Dr. Thompson had several great passions. First was his loving wife Judith and their daughter Polly. Second was his pursuit of scholarship focused on several topics including International Relations and American Government. He was an avid learner of languages from Western European to Japanese and Chinese.

The Thompson family shared a love of music. Everywhere they lived until settling in Columbia they both sang in church and community choirs. He was a former member of the Columbia Mastersingers and Eastminster Choirs.

Dr. Thompson taught at the University of South Carolina from 1970 until retirement. Following retirement, he joyfully returned to teaching in the South Carolina Honors College each semester until August 2016. Over the course of his distinguished career, he received multiple awards from Mortar Board, American Political Science Association and Pi Sigma Alpha. Dr. Thompson rejoiced everyday he was in a classroom of undergraduate students who provided him with great excitement about the future.

A specialist in international relations, Dr. Thompson spent 1983-1984 as a Fulbright Scholar in Beijing, China teaching the American Constitution to students at Beijing University. A prolific author, he published eleven books on a variety of topics in political history and why nations war. His most treasured work was a book of stories hand written for his beloved daughter Polly for Christmas 1977.

Recently, Dr. Thompson returned to an early love of art in drawing and painting and the last class he created but was not able to teach was on Art, Architecture, and Empire. For this course he returned to one of his early interests: architectural drawing. His course syllabus included his own illustrations for the course.

Dr. Thompson was married to Judith Curfman Thompson from 1967. He was the father of the late Pauline Alexandra Thompson. He is survived by his sister and brother-in-law, Jane Curfman and Michael Barrett Hoge of Cincinnati, Ohio as well as nephews, Andrew and Aaron Hoge and niece, Kate Hoge Graham. Also surviving are several cousins and their children.

At this time no service is planned. Dunbar Funeral Home is in charge of the cremation. Memorials may be made to the South Carolina Honors College, 514 Main St, Columbia, SC 29208; the University of South Carolina, 1027 Barnwell Street, Suite 214, Columbia, SC 29208 or; or a charity of one’s choice.

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