Tommy Thompson

From Academic Kids

For the Canadian artist, see Tom Thomson.
Tommy G. Thompson
Tommy G. Thompson

Thomas George "Tommy" Thompson (born November 19, 1941) is a politician and the 19th United States Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). He announced his resignation from that post on December 3, 2004, and served until January 26, 2005, when the Senate confirmed his successor, Michael O. Leavitt.

Thompson was born in Elroy, Wisconsin, where his father ran a gas station and country grocery store. He began his career in politics in 1966 as a representative in the Wisconsin State Assembly, after finishing law school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From 1987 to 2001, Thompson served as the 42nd Governor of Wisconsin, having been elected to an unprecedented four terms. Thompson left office when he was appointed by President George W. Bush as HHS Secretary.

Thompson's most noted initiatives during his nearly 14 years as governor of Wisconsin were his Wisconsin Works and school choice programs. In 1990, Thompson enacted the nation's first parental school choice program, allowing low-income Milwaukee families to send children to the private or public school of their choice.

Missing image
Thompson at the 2004 HealthierUS summitt

Enacted in 1996, Wisconsin Works, or "W-2," was the state's welfare-to-work legislation, which served as a national model for welfare reform. The program required participants to work, while at the same time providing services and support intended to make the transition to work feasible and permanent. W-2 provided assistance through childcare, health care, transportation and employment-related training. Wisconsin's monthly welfare caseload declined by more than 90 percent, while the economic status of those taking part in W-2 was reported to have improved. The average family on Wisconsin's Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) had been 30 percent below the federal poverty line. However, at the average wage of people leaving W-2, families were 30 percent above the poverty line.

As HHS Secretary, Thompson launched initiatives to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health, reorganize the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to encourage greater responsiveness and efficiency, and clear the backlog of waivers and state plan amendments, approving 1,400 and thereby provide health insurance to 1.8 million lower-income Americans throughout the nation.

He also worked on strengthening the nation's preparedness for a bioterrorism attack. At the announcement of his resignation as HHS Secretary, he commented candidly on that effort.


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Preceded by:
Donna Shalala
Secretary of Health and Human Services
Succeeded by:
Michael O. Leavitt
Preceded by:
Tony Earl
Governor of Wisconsin
Succeeded by:
Scott McCallum

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