Minister, civil rights, peace activist, grandfather
Rhodes Thompson Jr. died August 13 at Pilgrim Place retirement community in Claremont, where he resided for 23 years with his wife of 65 years, Lois Long Thompson. He was 89.
Though Mr. Thompson had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease in recent years, those who knew him in better days remember him for his ebullient personality, boundless enthusiasm and deep concern for those throughout the world who were less fortunate, his family shared.
A retired Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister and lifelong civil rights and peace activist, he was one of the leaders of a group that for years has held a weekly vigil every Friday afternoon at the corner of Indian Hill Blvd. and Arrow Highway in Claremont, to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr. Thompson was born in Barbourville, Kentucky on June 28, 1928. He met Lois when both were students at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. They were married in 1952 in Edwards, Mississippi on the grounds of Southern Christian Institute, a historically black educational institution where Ms. Thompson’s parents worked for decades and where she grew up.
After college, Mr. Thompson worked for two years for the American Friends Service Committee in the southwest, in Mexico, and in Germany doing post-war housing reconstruction. He later followed in his father’s footsteps and entered the ministry, after earning a divinity degree at Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky. He went on to serve as pastor of Disciples of Christ churches outside of Paris, Kentucky, the town where he grew up; in Daytona Beach, Florida; Little Rock, Arkansas; St. Louis, Missouri; and Los Angeles.
He and Ms. Thompson also spent four years serving as missionaries in Kobe, Japan from 1966 to 1970. For the decade of the 1980s, he was on the faculty of Phillips Theological Seminary in Enid, Oklahoma. During those years, he wrote a book, Stewards Shaped by Grace: The Church’s Gift to a Troubled World, published in 1990, which reflected one of the most important parts of his ministry, stewardship.
The couple spent their lives together working for peace and justice. They served in Little Rock from 1963 to 1966 during an especially tumultuous time in the nation’s history, and worked with other local religious and civic leaders to peacefully desegregate restaurants, the municipal swimming pool and other public facilities.
In addition to his wife Lois, Mr. Thompson is survived by daughters Lynn Thompson of Redondo Beach and Jody Heatherly of Greeley, Colorado, and his son Mark Thompson of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; grandchildren Sara and Amanda Thompson, of Los Angeles, Shelby Fields Kraus of London, England, and Kaylen Fields of Denver, Colorado; brother Bob Thompson of Paris, Kentucky, and sisters Anne Else of Omaha, Nebraska and Jeanne Moffat of Toronto, Canada.
A memorial service to celebrate Mr. Thompson’s life will be held at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, October 22 in Decker Hall at Pilgrim Place in Claremont.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made in Mr. Thompson’s honor to the American Friends Service Committee, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia, PA 19102 or at afsc.org; or Common Global Ministries, PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206 or at globalministries.org.