Member Biography

Joseph Henry Thompson 

Sessions Office Position District Party
1913-1914       47 Republican
1915-1916       47 Republican

COUNTIES: Beaver, Lawrence  


09/26/1871 - 02/01/1928

Joseph Henry "Colonel Joe" Thompson (R47) Beaver and Lawrence Counties 1913-1916

Early Life:           

Joseph Henry "Colonel Joe" Thompson of Patterson Heights, Beaver Falls, (born Kilkeel, County Down, Ireland September 26, 1871) attended, public schools, Ireland, Duff’s Business College, Pittsburgh, 1896-1897, bachelors, Geneva College (1904), bachelors, University of Pittsburgh (1905), University of Pittsburgh Law School (1907) Lawyer, Beaver Falls; a highly decorated World War I veteran, Purple Heart, Distinguished Service Cross, Medal of Honor, Pennsylvania state senator, head football coach of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers, inducted, National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame (1971) inducted, Beaver County Sports Hall of Fame (1977); married Violet Edith Smeegh, September 26, 1908; died February 1, 1928, ailments aggravated by war wounds, Beaver Falls, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, interment Beaver Falls Cemetery and Mausoleum, Beaver Falls, Beaver County, Pennsylvania.

Early Career: 

At Geneva College, became a basketball star and also participated in gymnastics and wrestling, but did not go out for football until 1900. Served, Geneva's player-coach for three years, with his football teams compiling a 27–2–3 record.

Continued his education at the University of Pittsburgh (Western University of Pennsylvania), where he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, played football from 1904 and 1906, the Panthers compiled a 26–6 record. He captained the Pitt football team to its first perfect season, 10-0, in 1904 when the Panthers won all ten games and surrendered only one touchdown. While at Pitt, also coached the track and field team beginning in 1904. At various points, he also coached football at Pittsburgh High School and Carnegie Technical Schools—now known as Carnegie Mellon University—and was Rochester High School's first football coach.

Graduated, Pitt, 1905, School of Law, graduating, 1909, admitted to the Beaver County and Allegheny County bar. General Counsel to Clarion, Lawrence, and Connoquenessing Hydro-Electric Power companies.

Head football coach, Pitt, 1909-1912, 34–14–2 record. The highlight, the 1910 season undefeated 9-0, unscored upon 282-0, and considered by many to be that season's national champion. Facilitated the implementation of the first known use of numbers on uniforms of football players during his coaching years at Pitt.


Distinguished Service Cross for his valor on October 1, 1918

Medal of Honor on October 5, 1925

Pennsylvania Politics: 

Elected, Republican, Pennsylvania State Senate, 47th District, Beaver and Lawrence Counties, 1913-1916; committee assignments, Appropriations, City Passenger Railways, Judicial General, Military Affairs, Mines and Mining (Chairman), Public Health and Sanitation and Public Roads and Highways 

Names of any service after Senate:

Enlisted, Pennsylvania National Guard's Company H, 14th Infantry Regiment, February 16, 1905, promoted, second lieutenant, November 1, 1906; captain, Company B, 10th Infantry, Pennsylvania National Guard, December 16, 1909; major, June 29, 1912; lieutenant colonel, October 28, 1918; finally, colonel, March 15, 1919. Serving, WWI, wounded four times: on September 29, 1918; September 30, 1918; October 1, 1918; October 1, 1918, when he was gassed. He remained on duty after each instance. As of April 12, 1919, he was commanding the 110th Infantry Regiment. Thompson initially returned to the United States on May 11, 1919. He returned to France in June 1919, to redeploy the 110th Infantry Regiment to the United States. Discharged, active duty, December 1919.

While the 110th Infantry, then Major Thompson, awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his valor on October 1, 1918, during which action he suffered four wounds and was gassed on one occasion. This decoration upgraded to the Medal of Honor on October 5, 1925. His four wounds entitled him to wear four wound chevrons (the precursor to the Purple Heart which was reestablished by the President of the United States per War Department General Orders 3, 1932) on his uniform's lower right sleeve.

Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Army, 110th Infantry, 28th Division. Place and date: At Apremont, France; October 1, 1918. Entered service at: Beaver Falls, Pa. Born: September 26, 1871; Kilkeel, County Down, Ireland. General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 21 (October 5, 1925).


Counterattacked by two regiments of the enemy, Major Thompson encouraged his battalion in the front line by constantly braving the hazardous fire of machineguns and artillery. His courage was mainly responsible for the heavy repulse of the enemy. Later in the action, when the advance of his assaulting companies was held up by fire from a hostile machinegun nest and all but one of the six assaulting tanks were disabled, Major Thompson, with great gallantry and coolness, rushed forward on foot three separate times in advance of the assaulting line, under heavy machinegun and antitank-gun fire, and led the one remaining tank to within a few yards of the enemy machinegun nest, which succeeded in reducing it, thereby making it possible for the infantry to advance.


The Joseph H. Thompson is a self-unloading tug/barge combination built in 1944 at Chester, Pennsylvania. She is 706 feet long with 19 hatches on deck that open into four cargo holds below. She was first named the Marine Robin but became the Joseph H. Thompson in 1952 when a 250-foot self-unloading boom was added to her deck that allows her to unload cargo without shore side equipment. She is owned and operated by Upper Lakes Towing, headquartered in Escanaba on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She often brings limestone into port and will then load taconite while here.

Stephen Foster, known also as "the father of American music" wrote a song entitled "Joe Thompson" to honor him as football coach at Pitt. He wrote more than 200 songs, including "Oh! Susanna", " "Camptown Races", "Old Folks at Home" ("Swanee River"), "My Old Kentucky Home", many of his compositions remain popular today. Foster, has been identified as "the most famous songwriter of the nineteenth century" and may be the most recognizable American composer in other countries.

Who plans the plays to spring upon the foe?

Who fought for Wup, five years or more ago?

Who's still for Pitt, does anybody know?

Just hear those loyal rooters shouting:

Joe! Joe! Joe!


We're coming, we're coming;

We have the foe in tow,

So here's a cheer for Pittsburgh dear

And Joe! Joe! Joe!


Cox, Harold Senate Members "T" ( University Election Statistics ProjectWilkes University.

The Pennsylvania Manual, (1916). Miller, H.P., (Compiler). Baker, W.H., (Assistant Compiler). Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pages 1116, 1123-1126, Biographical Sketches of Senators, page 1097.

LTC Joseph Henry Thompson (

Inductee | Joseph Henry Thompson 1971 | College Football Hall of Fame (

Joseph H. Thompson | American Football Database | Fandom

Joseph Henry Thompson (1871-1928) - Find a Grave Memorial