Hunter Stockton Thompson died on February 20, 2005 at the age of 67, he was an American journalist and author, and the founder of the gonzo journalism movement.
Born into a middle-class family in Louisville, Kentucky on July 18, 1937, the first of three sons of Jack Robert Thompson (September 4, 1893, Horse Cave, Kentucky – July 3, 1952, Louisville), a public insurance adjuster and World War Iveteran, and of Virginia Ray Davison (1908, Springfield, Kentucky – March 20, 1998, Louisville), who worked as head librarian at the Louisville Public Library.
His parents were introduced to each other by a friend from Jack’s fraternity at the University of Kentucky in September 1934, and married on November 2, 1935.
Thompson had a turbulent youth after the death of his father left the family in poverty. He was unable to formally finish high school as he was incarcerated for 60 days after abetting a robbery.
He subsequently joined the United States Air Force before moving into journalism.
He traveled frequently, including stints in California, Puerto Rico, and Brazil, before settling in Aspen, Colorado, in the early 1960s.
Politically minded, Thompson ran unsuccessfully for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado, in 1970, on the Freak Power ticket.
He became well known for his inveterate hatred of Richard Nixon, whom he claimed represented “that dark, venal, and incurably violent side of the American character” and whom he characterized in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.
Thompson’s output notably declined from the mid-1970s, as he struggled with the consequences of fame, and he complained that he could no longer merely report on events as he was too easily recognized.
He was also known for his lifelong use of alcohol and illegal drugs, his love of firearms, and his iconoclastic contempt for authoritarianism.
Thompson attended I. N. Bloom Elementary School, Highland Middle School, and Atherton High School, before transferring to Louisville Male High School in September 1952.
Also in 1952, he was accepted as a member of the Athenaeum Literary Association, a school-sponsored literary and social club that dated to 1862.
Its members at the time, generally drawn from Louisville’s wealthy upper-class families, included Porter Bibb, who became the first publisher of Rolling Stone. During this time Thompson read and admired J. P. Donleavy’s The Ginger Man.
One of the most widely quoted lines from tributes and obituaries to him was from one written by Frank Kelly Rich, editor and publisher of Modern Drunkard Magazine: “There was always a powerful comfort in knowing he was out there somewhere in the night, roaring drunk, guzzling high-octane whiskey and railing against a world amok with complacency and hypocrisy.”
His will stipulated that his body be cremated and his ashes shot out of a 150-foot cannon his Colorado ranch.
Journalist friend Troy Hooper said “He was a big fan of bonfires and explosions and anything that went bang, and I’m sure he’d like to go bang as well.”
His wishes were fulfilled on August 20, 2005, during a celebration of his life attended by Sean Penn, Johnny Depp, Lyle Lovett, and other close friends and family, a Cannon was specially constructed for the event.