Jim Thompson

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameJames Harrison Wilson "Jim"•Thompson
Used nameJim•Thompson
Born21 March 1906 in Greenville, Delaware (USA)
Died26 March 1967 in ? (MAS)
NOC United States


Jim Thompson’s Olympic sailing career was but a footnote to an exotic, mysterious life. He was born to wealth in Delaware, and studied at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire and Princeton. He later studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and practiced architecture in New York in the 1930s. His politics in the late 30s became rather liberal, alienating him from his family and he joined the US Army in 1940. During World War II Thompson served with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), using his fluency in French to help fight with the French resistance movement, and with the French in North Africa. Shortly after the end of the war, he was transferred to the OSS Bangkok Office. He returned to the USA after leaving the Army in 1946 and tried to get his wife to join him in Thailand, but she refused and they divorced. But Thompson returned to Bangkok on his own. He started a large syndicate that renovated the Oriental Hotel, turning it into one of the world’s best known hotels. Although officially no longer in intelligence services, there are suspicions that he continued to work undercover for the CIA while in Thailand.

Thompson’s main effort in Bangkok was re-establishing the Thai silk industry. He organized a group of investors to form the Thai Silk Company and hired local weavers to renovate what had been a dying industry in Thailand. Thompson became a wealthy man in Thailand, but also made many of the weavers rich as well, giving them shares of the company. He used his wealth to collect Southeast Asian Art, and had an envied collection of Buddhist and secular art from Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, and Laos. In 1958, Thompson used his architectural skills to build his dream home, which was formed from parts of six antique Thai houses, and sat on a canal across from Bangkrua, where his weavers worked. The home, now called The Jim Thompson House, became the second most popular tourist attraction in Bangkok, surpassed only by the Grand Palace.

On Easter Sunday, 26 March 1967, Thompson was staying in Pahang, Malaysia, in the Cameron Highlands while on a holiday with friends. He went for a walk that afternoon and was never seen again. His disappearance remains a puzzle, despite extensive efforts to discover the reasons behind it, and several books have been written about Thompson’s life and its mysterious end.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1928 Summer Olympics Sailing USA Jim Thompson
6 metres, Open (Olympic) Frieda 6