Roosevelt Thompson was born on January 28, 1962, in Little Rock to the Reverend C. R. Thompson and Dorothy L. Thompson. He attended Little Rock Central High School and participated in many of Central's activities. During his freshman year, he decided he wanted to pursue a career in public service. By his junior year, his teachers were already talking to him about becoming a Rhodes Scholar. He was involved 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.
After graduating from Central High School, Thompson went to Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he studied history and economic/political science and received many honors. As a sophomore, Thompson was elected president of the Calhoun College Student Council. He was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, a prestigious academic honor society, in his junior year. He also received the university's Hart Lyman Prize, given to the top junior for high scholarship and character at Yale. However, school was far from the only thing in which Thompson immersed himself. He also worked eight hours a week in the work-study program at City Hall, focusing on housing and neighborhood development, and volunteered in a tutoring program in the New Haven Public Schools, where he helped revitalize a dying program at the local Troupe Middle School. In addition, he played offensive lineman for the Yale football team.
Roosevelt's life was cut tragically short when he died in a car crash on March 22, 1984. Thompson's funeral was held in Little Rock Central High School's auditorium. About 1,500 people attended. Among them were Bill Clinton and Senator Dale Bumpers. Newsweek later ran a one-page obituary about Thompson titled "Rosey: He Was the Best of Us." Today the auditorium at LRCH is names after Roosevelt Thompson as well as a branch of the Central Arkansas Library System.