Another remarkable life story-Joe Thompson 1905-2003

As Tom Lehrer once said, “It’s people like this who make you realize how little you’ve accomplished.”

I was acquainted with the man, as I was a member of the church he served as deacon, but did not know him well. But he was a man of very strong character.

I’ll tell just one story. A year and a half ago, during the summer, the KKK came to Topeka to hold a rally on the Statehouse steps. Lots of furor beforehand, an enormous amount of security and penning in of spectators. Across the street the NAACP held a rally, which I attended, and ended up standing next to Joe. He was 95 and the heat was awful, and we had not been allowed to even bring in water bottles. Some might say Joe had no business, at his age and condition, being out. But try telling Joe that.

It did get to him. I heard him start to breath deeply, then sway back and forth. When he started to collapse I leaned against him but the guy on his other side took his weight(Joe was very tall) and got him to the ground. Others took him inside to the air conditioning. The Episcopal bishop of Kansas was there too, had been scheduled to give a closing prayer at the rally, but instead he accompanied Joe to the hospital where he was sent for observation.

What a guy.

I encourage everyone to read that link. Joe Thompson was truely incredible.


And a great counterpoint to Fred Phelps, both as an example of a decent human being and that Kansas shouldn’t be associated with hate.

Thanks for posting a link to a man who was a true defination of a leader and decent human being.

Thanks for the link and the story, Baker. That man was an American hero in a dozen different ways! Looks like he was a tough cookie, too. 97 years old and it still took a car accident to pull all the life out of him.

I can’t help but think that if major news organizations carried more stories like that of this great man, and fewer stories about kidnapping, murder, and Michael Jackson, this country would be a much nicer place.

I’m going to bump this just this once. It got posted over Christmas and could have been overlooked, and I wanted to let folks know about this guy.

Wow. He knew how to live, didn’t he? Thanks for posting this.

Anyone else catch that he was 35 when he enlisted for WWII?

What a life.

What a stud.

Joe’s memorial service was yesterday. The cathedral was as packed as it usually is on Easter or Christmas Eve. There was a big clergy delegation, with two bishops, the dean, several other priests, lots of deacons, and so on. Four pews of Boy Scouts, they had their own section roped off, and brought in the colors before the service started.

One of the cathedral deacons, who is a local historian and had known Joe for over forty years, delivered the homily. One thing I learned, that “Don” told us about, was that it was hard to get him to speak of his wife(died from cancer 45 years ago), but that only recently Joe had told Don that “I still can’t believe she married me.” We heard several more remarkable life stories as well. He started the first black Cub Scout troop in town, then the first black Boy Scout troop, after being Topeka’s first black Eagle Scout. And as the obituary noted, he was a Lone Scout at the time, because the white troop wouldn’t let him join. He lived in the same house that his father built when Joe was five years old. When ordained a deacon the bishop at that time told him he was to be assigned to the cathedral “Until further notice”, and fifty years later he still had not got notice of a change.

I guess that “notice” was finally given.