James C. Thomson Jr.

Curator 1972-1984

James C. Thomson Jr. was born in 1931 to missionary parents and grew up in Nanjing, China. He graduated from Yale in 1953 and received a Ph.D. in history from Harvard in 1961.

Thomson entered government service in 1959 and served in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. In 1966 he resigned from public service in protest of the Vietnam War and returned to Harvard to teach.

In April 1968, he published the article "How Could Vietnam Happen?" in The Atlantic Monthly. The story examined and condemned American involvement in Vietnam and won a major award from the Overseas Press Club.

In 1972 Thomson was named curator of the Nieman Foundation. During his tenure, he broadened the program to include more minorities, women and journalists from small news organizations and broadcasting. In 1979, he enabled the foundation to acquire the Walter Lippmann House.

Thomson remained curator until 1984, when he moved to Boston University to focus on the history of journalistic reporting on the Chinese and Vietnamese revolutions. He died in 2002, in Boston, at the age of 70.