Dehart Hagan Thompson passed away at the age of 85 on October 22, 2012 in Atlanta after a four-year decline caused by dementia and congestive heart failure. The family will hold a memorial service in December with details to be announced.
Hagan was born Aug 6, 1927 in Council Bluffs, IA and graduated from Millsaps College in Jackson, MS in 1949 with a B.A. in history. At Millsaps, Hagan was a popular performer with the Millsaps Singers and earned the nickname "Huggin' Hagan". After marrying Millsaps beauty Marilyn Sanderson in 1950 and teaching briefly in Natchez, MS, he returned to Jackson, where he worked at Brown Music Company and as a reporter for The State Times.
In 1953, Hagan joined new NBC television affiliate WLBT-TV. As news director, he covered some of the biggest stories of the civil rights movement, including the integration of the University of Mississippi by Medgar Evers, and the murder of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, MS. He can be seen in action in the 1987 PBS documentary, Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965).
Hagan also was the popular host of WLBT's Teen Tempos, a live, Saturday afternoon dance show patterned after American Bandstand. Known to Jacksonians as "The World's Oldest Teenager," Hagan sang and danced his way into the hearts of many and was a beloved local celebrity.
Even with his busy career and growing family, Hagan was very much engaged in the local theatre and music scene. He sang roles in Mississippi Opera productions and starred in plays at the Little Theatre and the New Stage Theatre. He was the tenor soloist at Galloway Methodist Church and St. Peter's Co-Cathedral and sang with many other groups, including the Wahabi Shrine Temple Chanters, the Rebel Chorus, and the Maurice Thompson Singers, a small ensemble founded and conducted by his father, Maurice Thompson.
Given his local celebrity, in 1968 Hagan was tapped by the Republican Party to run for Congress. As the lone Republican in large field of Democrats, he lost the race, but was offered a job with the then-new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The family moved to Atlanta in 1972, and Hagan retired in 1988 as head of the Public Affairs division of the Southeast Region of the EPA. In Atlanta, Hagan jumped right into the music and theatre scene. He joined the Atlanta Symphony Chorus conducted by the late Robert Shaw and was an early member of Southern Discomfort, the musical political satire troupe in the manner of The Capitol Steps. He also starred in Dunwoody Stage Door Players performances and sang for many years in the choir at First Presbyterian Church. Even in retirement, Hagan was still performing, taking a role in My Fair Lady with the St. Simon's Island Players and singing with the Summer Singers of Atlanta at Grace United Methodist Church.
In addition to his love for music, dance and theater, Hagan was an avid cyclist and fitness buff. He was a dedicated member of the Southern Bicycle League for over 20 years. He rode thousands of miles a year across the US and Canada in the 80's and 90's. Up to the age of 80, he was cycling or exercising daily.
Hagan is predeceased by his parents, Maurice Thompson and Helen McClellan. He is survived by his former wife, Marilyn Sanderson Thompson, Atlanta, and children Marilyn Thompson Altman, Atlanta; Dan Thompson, Atlanta; Reese Thompson, Detroit; Edie Thompson; Atlanta; and Helen Whitley, Atlanta. He also leaves two beloved grandchildren, Samantha Thompson and Katherine Gaylord.
Donations in Hagan's honor may be made to the William Baker Choral Foundation, PO Box 78709, Atlanta, Georgia 30357 or to the Robert D. Fowler Family YMCA, 5600 West Jones Bridge Road, Norcross, GA 30092.
Published in Clarion Ledger on October 25, 2012