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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Del. Thompson, Where Are You? Having Lunch with Judge Crater?

Posted by kinchendavid on January 19, 2007

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Ron Thompson

Hinton, WV  – The Ron Thompson watch continues in Charleston, as well as in the 27th House of Delegates District of Raleigh and Summers Counties. As a person who voted for the Phantom of the Capitol (cue to overture of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera”), I want to know where the Beckley resident is.

Along with virtually every journalist in the state, I’ve tried contacting Thompson and got no response. Fellow delegates Linda Sumner, Mel Kessler and Virginia Mahan say they haven’t seen the missing delegate. He didn’t show up to take his oath of office. His personal belongings are packed up and reside in the office he shares with Kessler.

For those who haven’t been following this story, Thompson, a member of the House of Delegates since 1994, hasn’t been seen in the Capitol since last March. He missed the interims and special sessions and didn’t show up during the campaign that culminated in his placing third in the voting and being re-elected. He wasn’t at last fall’s candidate forum in Hinton, which I covered.

House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne – no relation to the missing delegate – has promised a “course of action” to deal with his AWOL fellow Democrat, according to Mannix Porterfield, writing in the Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007 Register-Herald. Porterfield’s stories about Thompson would – if collected – make a fair sized book.

Joseph F. Crater

I suggested to several people that he’s the West Virginia equivalent of Judge Crater – and got blank looks from non-trivia fans. For more about New York Supreme Court Judge Joseph F. Crater, who disappeared on Aug. 6, 1930, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judge_Crater

Judge Crater’s disappearance, when he was last seen leaving a restaurant and entering a taxi on his way to a Broadway show, became part of Americana. Comedians for years used the line “Judge Crater, call your office” and got plenty of laughs. Not so much anymore, because later disappearances took precedence.

Born in 1889 and appointed to the bench by Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Crater was presumed dead in 1939, allowing his widow to collect on his insurance policy. His disappearance, similar to that of Jimmy Hoffa later in the 20th Century, may have been a mob hit. There was, as readers of the Wikipedia entry will quickly discover, a mysterious trip to Atlantic City, N.J. with a showgirl about a month before the judge vanished. Maybe his wife found out about the showgirl and called for a hit on her wayward hubby.

Thompson’s absent status has prompted a threat of a lawsuit from the Affliliated Construction Trades Foundation in an effort to keep Thompson from collecting his annual $15,000 salary for not taking the oath.

Foundation Director Steve White is concerned about the lack of representation in the five-member 27th District, where the candidate who placed sixth — Kevin Maynus — is interested in Thompson’s seat should the missing delegate not claim it. Maynus, a Democratic candidate, says he has contacted party officials in both Raleigh and Summers counties to let them know he wants the seat if Thompson vacates it, according to Porterfield.

There have been sightings of Thompson, brief though they may be. One source, who requested total anonymity, told me Thompson’s appearance has changed radically. I’m guessing that he looks like the Jack Bauer character when he was first seen on the 6th season premiere of the TV show “24,” with a long scraggly beard. Maybe we could add a rodeo clown red fright wig.

I hesitate to make light of Thompson’s lack of visibility, but he did run for re-election and – as I said above — I did vote for him, so I have a stake in his re-appearance.

Ron Thompson, call your office! Or, better yet, call me: I’m in the book.

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