John G. Thompson, sergeant-at-arms of the Federal house of representatives, and one of the most active and distinguished political managers in the country, is a citizen of Columbus. He was born on Mill Creek, Union county, Ohio, February 17, 1833, son of James and Catharine (Gamble) Thompson, the former from Virginia, the latter of Irish descent. This fortunate cross of bloods, together with his early life and athletic labors in the pure air of the country, has contributed greatly to the physical and mental vigor which has characterized his career. He remained upon his father's farm for about twenty years, save one year and a half spent at the Marysville academy, in his native county, and three "quarters" (about nine months) occupied in teaching district schools. his education was chiefly acquired in these humble, but useful, "colleges of the people," which have furnished the sole education received in a formal way of our most distinguished men. His favorite studies were mathematical, and at this early day he looked with some confidence to the profession of civil engineer. Circumstances, however, prominent amon which was poor health, soon otherwise determined his career, and in his twentieth year he entered the dry goods business, as a partner with his father, at Watkins, in the same county. This connection was presently dissolved, and in March 1854, when but twenty-one years of age, he boldly pushed to Columbus, to try his fortunes at the State capital. His first employment here was as a clerk and book-keeper, in Messers. A. P. Stone & Company's store, in the old Commercial row, on south High street, between Friend and Mound streets, to which the business of the city was then largely confined.In the same year he accepted a partnership in the same concern, and retained it until the winter of 1859-60, when he relinquished it, upon assuming the duties of the office of county treasurer. While filling this position he engaged in banking, with others, under the firm name of Bailey, Thompson & Company, and continued in this business until 1871; meanwhile, also taking an interest in the dry goods house of A. C. Headley &am; Company, from which he retired at the same time, owing to the unfortunate financial complications in which the head of the firm became involved. Since then he has been mainly in public life.
At a very early age Mr. Thompson began to take an eager interest in politics, in which his chief successes have been won. A Democrat, bred in the bone, he soon became a well-recognized and energetic worker for that party, with which he has steadily been identified. At once, upon coming to Columbus, he became prominent in local politics, especially a year or two after, in the formation and management of the "Wheatland club" (it was the year of the Buchanan and Fremont campaign), which brought the young Democracy of the city into virtual supremacy. The same year (1856) he wa made a member of the Democratic county committee, and was its secretary during the next two years. He has been a member of the State Central committee of his party continuously since 1860, and the work which has principally given him name and fame has been done in connection with it. At the very outset of this service he was made secretary of the committee, and again in 1862. The next year, at the age of only thirty, he was advanced to the chairmanship, which he has retained continuously ever since, with the exception of three years; and from 1863 10 1879, save but two years, he has also been entrusted with the responsible and laborious duties of chairman of the Executive committee, becoming thus, and for so long a time, the chief manager and organizer of the Democracy in the State. He was a delegate from Ohio to the Democratic National convention in New York, in 1868, and four years afterwards to the similar convention in Baltimore. Since 1868 he has been the member for Ohio of the National Democratic committee, serving continuously during that time, on the Executive committee of the same.
Mr. Thompson's eminent services to his party have not, of course, been altogether unrewarded. As already noted, he was elected treasurer of Franklin County in 1859. Two years afterwards, when the Republican party had greatly strengthened by the war agitation, he was reelected by a majority of one thousand seven hundred, by far the largest majority received at that election in the county--Mr. Jewett, Democratic candidate for governor, receiving but five hundred and twenty. In spring of 1862 he was chosen a member of the city council, and at once made chairman of the police committee, which, at that time--a time of peculiar difficulty and turbulence, from the presence in and about the city of large numbers of soldiers--had sole charge of the police force. He declined re-election until 1869, when he was returned to the council, and gave his influence in that body to the overthrow of the conservatism which had long obstructed the city's growth. By this council measures where ordained for the extension of the city limits, for water works, the city hall, and street improvements, all of which have contributed immensely to the since rapid increase of the city in population and wealth. In 1871, Mr. Thompson was elected to the State senate from Franklin and pickaway counties, and was re-elected two years after and did creditable service in that body until the spring of 1874, when he resigned to accept, by the appointment of Governor Allen, the office of State commissioner of railways and telegraphs. From this post he was called away in December, 1875, when, upon the resumption of power by the Democracy in the lower house of congress, he was elected sergeant-at-arms of that body, and has been honored by successive re-elections, by acclamation and without opposition, by the house Democrats of the Forty-fifth and Forty-sixth congresses. During the sessions he occupies himself closely and attentively with the duties of his important position, and is a popular officer with political foes as well as friends. In his official capacity, he accompanied the remains of Congressman Hartridge to their final resting-place, in the soil of Georgia.
Mr. Thompson has seen sufficient military service to afford some color of justification for the sobriquet of "colonel," sometimes bestowed upon him. Soon after his settlement in Columbus he joined a company of the State Fencibles, and remained a member until it was broken up by enlistment for the war. He was afterwards a captain in the State militia, and also served in the "squirrel-hunters'" campaign, organized in the fall of 1862 to resist the threatened invasion of the State by the rebel general, Morgan. He was a steady supporter of the war, and, with Mr. W. S. V. Prentiss closely following, gave the first one hundred dollar subscription to the twenty thousand dollars (finally forty thousand dollars), raised in Columbus, to support the families of citizens who had enlisted in the Federal service.
Upon his twenty-fourth birth-day, February 17, 1857, Mr. Thompson was married to Miss Fannie High, daughter of Mr. Hosea S. High, a farmer of Franklin county. Their union has been blessed with three sons and two daughters, four of whom are living. The family resides in a beautiful house on north High street, Columbus, at the corner of Seventh avenue.