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Friday, December 9, 2016

On my father's 87th birthday.


My dad, Tommy J. Thompson, was born in Dublin, Texas on this day in 1929. He graduated Sweetwater High School in 1947, just after the death of his father, and joined the US Air Force.

He served with distinction in the Korean War. Mustered out in North Carolina, he met my mother, then a senior at Flora MacDonald College, and, after a whirlwind courtship, they married in August, 1952.

He spent his career in the high noon and slow sunset of the Southern textile industry, and everywhere we were transferred when I was a kid, people wept when he left. He had that kind of effect on people.

He was blessed with a bell-like tenor, in the manner of Carreras, and so was much in demand as a wedding singer. He was an accomplished speaker. He ended up the leader of every civil organization he every associated with. Gallons of blood he donated, fortunes he raised for the United Way. He was a Paul Harris Fellow in Rotary; held the Silver Beaver Award of the Boy Scouts of America; was a deacon and elder in the Presbyterian Church, and a confidante to a generation of western North Carolina political leaders. With no college degree, he sat on the board of visitors of a college. His three children collected seven degrees.

When he died in 2001, friends drove and flew hundreds of miles to Mount Carmel Presbyterian Church in rural Richmond County, North Carolina, where my mother's family have been laid to rest for nearly 250 years, to see him off.

Sophocles reminds us we must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been.

My father's days were golden indeed.

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