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Feb 8: Brooklyn Black History Maker, William C. Thompson Sr.

Thompson made history when he became the first African-American state senator to represent Brooklyn in 1965.
Bill Thompson Sr., BK Reader
Bill Thompson Sr.

New York State Supreme Court Justice and Brooklyn's first African-American state senator, William "Bill" C. Thompson Sr. was born October 26, 1924, in New York City and raised in Crown Heights.

The son of Caribbean immigrants was a graduate of Franklin K. Lane High School and Brooklyn College before earning his law degree from Brooklyn Law School in 1954. After being admitted to the bar in 1955, he began practicing with a specialization in criminal law before dedicating his life to public service. 

In 1965, Thompson made history when he was elected as the first African-American state senator to represent Brooklyn. During his tenure, he worked with Senator Robert F. Kennedy to establish the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation and chairing the Joint Legislative Committee on Child Care Needs, sponsoring over 25 bills that would be signed into law. In 1969, Thompson returned to local politics and served until 1973 on the New York City Council.

In 1974, Thompson was elected as a justice of the Supreme Court. Four years later, he was appointed assistant administrative judge for Brooklyn and Staten Island. Thompson served on the court for nearly three decades until his retirement in 2000.

"Justice Thompson broke barriers as our borough's first Black state senator, and continued to break barriers as he ascended the ranks of our judicial system," said Mayor Eric Adams when he was Brooklyn Borough President. "Across five decades, Justice Thompson was the embodiment of the principles we expect out of public service. His legacy of public good includes meaningful work to advance quality child care, combat breast cancer, mentor young law students, as well as bring together our African-American and Jewish communities."

In addition to his distinguished legal, political and judicial career, Thompson was a member of the American and Brooklyn Bar Associations, the Metropolitan Black Bar Association and served on the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct from 1990 until 1998. He was a former regional director of the NAACP and a director of Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, among other organizations. During World War II, he served as a sergeant in the 92nd Infantry Division in Italy, the "Buffalo Solidiers," earning three battle stars, a combat infantry badge and the purple heart. 

A long-time resident of Bedford Stuyvesant, Thompson passed in December 2018 at the age of 94. He is survived by his son, former NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson, and daughter Gail.

Justice William Thompson, we acknowledge your enormous service, and we honor your memory.

*Sources: IMdb,,

February is Black History Month! Every day this month, BK Reader will profile one Black History Maker born or raised in Brooklyn. There are countless Brooklynites— past and present— who have contributed to America's fabric as pioneers or leaders in art, entertainment, sports, science and government. This month, we present to you 28! Click here to see all of the profiles.