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Fred Thompson, Former GOP Senator and Actor, Dead at 73

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"He had an enduring belief in the exceptionalism of our country, and that America could provide the opportunity for any boy or girl, in any corner of our country, to succeed in life."

Former Tennessee senator, actor and 2008 presidential candidate Fred Thompson announces his endorsement of Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich during a news conference at the Capitol Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, in Atlanta. Thompson says he supports Newt Gingrich because now is "not the time for the timid." (David Goldman/AP)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TheBlaze/AP) — Fred Thompson, a Republican U.S. senator for eight years who also acted in feature films and on television, has died, his family says in a statement.

Former Tennessee senator, actor and 2008 presidential candidate Fred Thompson announces his endorsement of Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich during a news conference at the Capitol Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, in Atlanta. Thompson says he supports Newt Gingrich because now is "not the time for the timid." (David Goldman/AP) Former Tennessee senator, actor and 2008 presidential candidate Fred Thompson announces his endorsement of Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich during a news conference at the Capitol Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, in Atlanta. Thompson says he supports Newt Gingrich because now is "not the time for the timid." (David Goldman/AP)

The statement says he died in Nashville after a recurrence of lymphoma at 73.

Thompson, a lawyer, alternated between politics and acting much of his adult life. Once regarded as a rising star in the Senate, he retired from the seat when his term expired in January 2003, saying he didn't "have the heart" for another term.

He announced a bid for president in 2007 but dropped out in 2008 after faring poorly.

Thompson, 6-foot-6 with a booming voice and folksy demeanor, appeared in at least 20 motion pictures. His credits include "In the Line of Fire," ''The Hunt for Red October," and "Cape Fear."

"Fred believed that the greatness of our nation was defined by the hard work, faith, and honesty of its people," the statement from his family read, the Tennessean noted. "He had an enduring belief in the exceptionalism of our country, and that America could provide the opportunity for any boy or girl, in any corner of our country, to succeed in life."

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