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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Joseph Bryan Thompson served Oklahoma in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1913 until his death in 1919. Born on April 4, 1871, in Grayson County, Texas, he attended Savoy College in Savoy, Texas, graduating in 1890. In 1892, the year he was admitted to the Texas bar, he moved to Ardmore, Indian Territory, and opened a law practice.

In 1893 Judge Charles Stuart appointed Thompson U.S. commissioner for Indian Territory, forcing another move to Purcell. U.S. commissioners were examining judges who determined whether enough evidence existed to send a case through the federal court system, in this instance, to the court at Paris, Texas. After his 1897 resignation as commissioner, Thompson settled in Pauls Valley.

In 1896 he gained membership on the Democratic Executive Committee for Indian Territory, attaining and wielding a large amount of influence in the party. In 1906, as statehood approached, his colleagues elected him chairman of the proposed state's Democratic Central Committee, making him a key political figure in the Democrat-dominated Constitutional Convention. Thompson held this post until elected to the Oklahoma Senate in 1910. In 1912 Oklahomans elected him to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Fifth District, compelling him to resign from the state position before his term ended in 1914. He occupied his federal office until heart failure induced by Bright's disease ended his life as he traveled by train back to Oklahoma from Washington, D.C., on September 18, 1919. Thompson's death, the first of an active Oklahoma solon, created a need for the state's first special election. John W. Harreld, a Republican, defeated Democrat Claude Weaver, dislodging a seat held by Democrats since statehood.

Thompson and his wife, Mary Miller, raised two sons, James Miller Thompson and Joseph B. Thompson, Jr. The junior Joseph Thompson followed his father in politics and is best known as the state senator who chaired the 1941 "little Dies Committee," which worked to eject communists from public forums and investigated Rev. Nicholas Comfort, Dr. Maurice Halperin, John B. Thompson, and Dr. W. C. Randels, among others.

Larry O'Dell

Last updated October 6, 2021


Jeffrey Burton, Indian Territory and the United States, 1866–1906: Courts, Government, and the Movement for Oklahoma Statehood (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995).

Chickasaw Enterprise (Ardmore, Oklahoma), 30 September 1893.

Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 22 November 1906 and 19 September 1919.

John P. Gilday and Mark H. Salt, eds., Oklahoma History, South of the Canadian: Historical and Biographical (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1925).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Larry O'Dell, “Thompson, Joseph Bryan,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=TH014.

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