Thompson, who had been named a Rhodes Scholar, was killed in a traffic accident in March 1984 during his senior year. He was returning from a visit to his hometown in Little Rock.
An undergraduate prize for public service is named in his memory. Recipients of the Roosevelt L. Thompson Prize are Yale College seniors judged to be outstanding for dedication to public service–service to “the team, the college, the community” and exemplify great human warmth, commitment to fairness, compassion for all people, and the promise of moral leadership in the public sphere.
Yale has produced a video about Thompson, which can be seen here.
Thompson was an outstanding student while at Little Rock Central High School. His funeral was held in the auditorium there, which has since been named in his memory. Among those who attended his funeral were Governor and First Lady Clinton. Gene Lyon wrote an obituary for him which appeared in an April 1984 issue of Newsweek. In addition to the Central High auditorium, a west Little Rock CALS library branch is also named in his memory.
Born on January 28, 1962, to the Reverend C. R. and Dorothy L. Thompson, he was active in school plays, the school newspaper, and various academic groups, and he was named the All-Star player on the football team in his senior year, during which he also served as student-body president. He went on to become a National Merit Scholar. The 1980 Pix yearbook is filled with images of him.
He continued to make a lasting impact at Yale. In 2015, a movement started to rename Calhoun College in his honor. The feeling was that John C. Calhoun, as a slaveholder, was not a worthy eponym for the college. While the university trustees opted to not rename the college, the head of the college used her prerogative to name the dining hall in his memory. As a student of Calhoun College, Thompson spent much time in this selfsame dining hall.