I was recently corresponding with a fellow economist, a friend and ex-student, and he mentioned having organized a session at some meetings in honor of the late Earl Thompson of UCLA. I responded by commenting that I too was an admirer of Thompson's and remembered James Buchanan having once said something to the effect that Earl had the highest IQ of anyone he knew. My friend described having spent very many hours as a graduate student arguing with Earl Thompson, to their mutual enjoyment.
The reason I think the exchange is interesting is that I, my friend, and Buchanan were all pretty far on the pro-market side of the economics profession. Earl was not. The first time I encountered him, he was giving a talk (at the public choice center at VPI sometime in the 1970's) offering clever arguments in favor of things that I and most of his audience were against. He did not, ultimately, convince me, but his ideas changed how I thought about certain theoretical issues in an important way, in particular convinced me of the importance of taking account of commitment strategies.
To me, this is a story about how the academic world is supposed to work. What was important about Earl, to all three of us, was not whether he agreed with us but whether he had intelligent and interesting ideas. Which he did. He will be missed.