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First Name: Joseph

Last Name: Thompson

Birthplace: Kilkeel, IRE

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Beaver Falls, PA
Middle Name: Henry

Date of Birth: 26 September 1871

Date of Death: 01 February 1928

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Years Served: 1917 - 1918
Joseph Henry Thompson

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)


Joseph Henry Thompson

Colonel, U.S. Army

Medal of Honor Recipient

World War I

Colonel Joseph Henry Thompson (26 September 1871 - 1 February 1928) was a U.S. Army officer who received the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during World War I. He was also a lawyer, Pennsylvania state legislator, head football coach of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers, and College Football Hall of Fame inductee.

Joseph Henry Thompson was born in Kilkeel, County Down, Ireland, on 26 September 1871. He came to the U.S. from Ireland in 1898 at the age of 18 and entered Geneva College that year. He immediately became a basketball star and also participated in gymnastics and wrestling, but did not go out for football until 1900. He served as Geneva's player-coach for three years, with his football teams compiling a 27-2-3 record.

Thompson continued his education at the University of Pittsburgh (then called the Western University of Pennsylvania) where he played football from 1904 and 1906. During that time the Panthers compiled a 26-6 record. He captained the Pitt football team to its first perfect season in 1904 when the Panthers won all ten games and surrendered only one touchdown. Thompson graduated from Pitt in 1905 and continued on in the School of Law where he earned his law degree and was admitted to the bar in 1909. While at Pitt, he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.

Following graduation from Pitt's Law School, Thompson assumed the head coaching position at Pitt from 1909 to 1912 during which period he led Pitt to a 22-11-2 record. The highlight of his coaching tenure was the 1910 season in which Pitt went undefeated and un-scored upon and was considered by many to be that season's National Champion. While compiling its 9-0 record, Pitt outscored its opponents 282-0.

A song to Joe Thompson was written to honor him as football coach at Pitt. Entitled "Joe Thompson" it was sung to the tune of the American folk song "Old Black Joe" by Stephen Foster.

While at Pitt, Thompson also coached the track and field team beginning in 1904. At various points, he also coached football at Pittsburgh High School and Carnegie Tech and was Rochester High School's first football coach.

Thompson served as a member of Pennsylvania State Senate from 1913-16 and practiced law in Beaver Falls, PA.

Thompson entered the Army in 1917 and fought in Mexico and France during World War I where he was repeatedly wounded and became a decorated hero. After the war, he served in the Army Reserves and practiced law in Beaver Falls until his death in 1928 from ailments aggravated by war wounds.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Army, 110th Infantry, 28th Division.

Place and date: Near Apremont, France, 1 October 1918.

Citation: Counterattacked by 2 regiments of the enemy, Maj. Thompson encouraged his battalion in the front line of constantly braving the hazardous fire of machineguns and artillery. His courage was mainly responsible for the heavy repulse of the enemy. Later in the action, when the advance of his assaulting companies was held up by fire from a hostile machinegun nest and all but 1 of the 6 assaulting tanks were disabled, Maj. Thompson, with great gallantry and coolness, rushed forward on foot 3 separate times in advance of the assaulting line, under heavy machinegun and antitank-gun fire, and led the 1 remaining tank to within a few yards of the enemy machinegun nest, which succeeded in reducing it, thereby making it possible for the infantry to advance.

Thompson reached the rank of Colonel while serving in the Army Reserves.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Medal
Purple Heart
Medal of Honor (Britain)
Croix de Guerre (France)


Thompson was inducted into the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

He was inducted into the Beaver County Sports Hall of Fame in 1977.

Death and Burial

Colonel Joseph Henry Thompson died on 1 February 1928. He is buried at Beaver Falls Cemetery and Mausoleum in Beaver Falls, Beaver County, PA, in Section A, Lot 55.

Honoree ID: 1831   Created by: MHOH




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