William “T” Thompson, Esq.
Pilot, Attorney and CEO
Some occupations are more demanding than others. Can you imagine the amount of time that a person has to spend to become a qualified lawyer or an airline pilot’ Now consider doing both at the same time. William “T” Thompson, Esq. has achieved just that. A newspaper once wrote of Thompson that “He seems to make attaining the American dream look easy.” The dream is possible but Thompson, a native of Orangeburg, South Carolina, would be the first to admit that a person must be determined and work very hard to ensure success. In 1969, Thompson became the first African-American from South Carolina to receive an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He did not rest on his laurels. After graduating from the Academy in 1973, he spent a year as the Minority Affairs Advisor to the Superintendent of the Academy, a position that he helped to create to assist in increasing the enrollment of African-Americans at the academy. Entering jet pilot school in Valdosta, Georgia, Thompson finished as the outstanding lieutenant of his class. Selected for entrance into the Air Force Instructor Pilot School, he was based in California and, in his seven-year tour, he held both the Instructor and Master Instructor designations and several other important positions. He also began work on both a Master’s degree in history and a Juris Doctor degree. In 1980, he left the Air Force and became a pilot with Delta Air Lines as second officer on the Boeing 727 aircraft. He relocated to Boston to fly and to complete his final year at Suffolk University’s law school. During his tenure with Delta, Thompson advanced through many positions and retired as an International Captain on the B-767 aircraft. One of the aviation industry’s few African-American commercial pilots, he was an active participant in the company’s Flight Operations Department, representing Delta at conferences and civic engagements. Recognizing the importance of creating opportunities for African-Americans in aviation, he has been a speaker at inner-city schools and helped establish a national scholarship program for minority students interested in aviation. He has served as Committee Chairman for the National Convention of the Organization of Black Airline Pilots and the Tuskegee Airmen. (Tuskgegee University was the first facility in the United States to train African Americans as pilots.) In 1983, he was appointed Commissioner, Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission and is the longest serving Commissioner in its history, serving three governors, both Democratic and Republican. In addition to being an outstanding pilot, Thompson is a lawyer and an entrepreneur. In 1982, he passed the Massachusetts Bar, began the practice of law, and founded the Summit Group. The Summit Group owned several fast food franchises, a system integration company, an engineering and testing company, and a medical services firm. Through growth, acquisitions and mergers, he built the company into a small conglomerate. His efforts have been chronicled in The Wall Street Journal, Black Enterprise Magazine, The Boston Globe and numerous other media outlets including NPR and NBC and CBS Television. Community service is an integral part of Thompson’s life. His extensive participation includes Chairman of the American Cancer Society and a member of its National Board, President of the National Association of Guardsmen Program Chair of Leadership Atlanta, Sire Archon of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, The Boulé and Commissioner of the Boy Scouts of America. He is a former member of the American Bar Association, the Air Line Pilots Association and the NAACP. In August of 2008, Captain Thompson came out of retirement to return to his alma mater as President and CEO of the Association of Graduates of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.