Remembering Ken Thompson, ‘One of Our Heroes’

Ken Thompson

Ken Thompson at a July 9, 2015 briefing organized by the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. (Photo by Aaron J. Montes)

Following the death on Oct. 9 of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson from cancer, an editorial in Amsterdam News by Herb Boyd remembers the man he calls “one of our heroes.” Boyd recalls how he first met Thompson while covering the Abner Louima case in 1999. Thompson, a member of the legal team that prosecuted officer Justin Volpe – convicted for sodomizing Louima – “was the most accommodating lawyer, gladly spending time with reporters to explain the legal and political intricacies of the case.”

Boyd goes on to say:

From these brief sessions it was clear to me that here was a promising servant of the court who was ready for the challenges of the legal arena. It was also an opportunity for me to meet his mother, and you could see where Ken got some of his confidence, his integrity and his sense of duty. He was proud to boast of her career as an officer, one of the first female officers to patrol the streets in the early 1970s.

He touches on his other points of contact with Thompson including the reopening of the Emmett Till case and when Thompson served as one of the attorneys for Nafissatou Diallo, who had accused then-IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault.

Read Boyd’s full piece at Amsterdam News.

Meanwhile, fellow staff members Nayaba Arinde and Cyril Josh Baker reached out to public officials for their reaction to the passing of the first African-American district attorney in Brooklyn.

Among those who spoke to Amsterdam News was 57th Assembly District Leader Olanike Alabi.

Alabi told the Amsterdam News, “Ken was my neighbor, and before becoming district attorney, he was a great supporter when I opted to run for office and donated to several of my campaigns. I was impressed with Ken’s personal and professional accomplishments and his love for the law, but what is more—justice. He will be missed and my thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

She noted that Thompson’s “work included Begin Again, overturning wrongful convictions, justice for Emmett Till, Abner Louima, Nafissatou Diallo and defending several elected officials who were arrested after protesting the proposed closure of local firehouses.”

Marquez Claxton, a retired NYPD detective and director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance, has known Thompson since 1992 and told Amsterdam News that the DA “was a vanguard born of a pioneer.” Like Herb Boyd, he attributes Thompson’s successes to his mother (who survives Thompson, along with his wife, children, father and siblings).

His mother, Clara, was one of the first Black women to join the NYPD, and she served as a mentor, an honest historian, advocate and mother figure to hundreds of us who subsequently joined the NYPD. She has always been a blunt realist and I’m sure that Ken inherited that from her. Whether you understood or agreed with Ken Thompson’s decisions or not, he was a man of honor and integrity. (…)

Go to Amsterdam News for more from other officials including Council member Jumaane Williams and Assembly member Charles Barron, who did not always see eye-to-eye with Thompson.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *