18 July marks the birthday of Hunter S. Thompson in 1937. Thompson would be known as a pioneer in what was termed, ‘gonzo journalism’, which in part was typified by colorful anecdotes, often involving the reporter as part of the story rather than a straight reporting of the facts of a particular event. Author Tom Wolfe would later describe Thompson’s style as “… part journalism and part personal memoir admixed with powers of wild invention and wilder rhetoric.”
Thompson was raised in Louisville, Kentucky, in a household that became increasingly unstable after the death of his father. Thompson did a stint in the US Air Force, his discharge contained this notation, “In summary, this airman, although talented, will not be guided by policy”. A fitting description for a man whose life would be typified by an abuse of drugs and alcohol as well as a reckless use of firearms and motor vehicles.
Thompson had a long association with the publication ‘Rolling Stone’ and several of his books grew out of assignments he was sent on for the magazine. One of the most enduring is his reportage of the 1972 Presidential election, which began with a large field of Democratic candidates and ended with the landslide re-election of Richard Nixon. Along the way, the campaign would include an incident in which Senator Muskie cried, Governor Wallace was shot, and Senator McGovern dropped his running mate from the Democratic ticket after it was disclosed he had undergone psychiatric care.
A lifelong sports fan, Thompson was known to have discussed football with Richard Nixon, despite his personal animus toward the candidate.
Thompson was named a Kentucky Colonel by the Governor of Kentucky in a December 1996 tribute ceremony where he also received keys to the city of Louisville.
After a period depression and nagging health problems, Thompson used a gun to take his own life in 2005.