William Richard Thompson died at the age of 85 on Oct. 8, 2021, in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. He was a dynamic, outgoing community activist who loved to share his deep knowledge of business, civic affairs and African American folklore and history, William was born the second child, first son, of William and Pauline Cheatham Thompson in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 9, 1936. He was the protective brother of five siblings: Dorothy, Grace, Paul, Leslie and David. A sixth sibling, Samuel died as an infant. William was baptized at Hopewell Baptist Church.
He attended primary school at Nashville’s Head Annex, Pearl Elementary and Washington
Junior High. At the original Pearl Senior High School, he was a working student. He maintained employment to support himself and his siblings, but kept high grades and stayed active in school activities. Bill was president of his sophomore, junior and senior classes at Pearl High, a member of the Drama Club, assistant trainer of the football team, and even sold popcorn at basketball games. He graduated from Pearl High in 1953.
After enrolling at Tennessee State University, he remained a full-time working student. He
carried a full class load, while working on a job from 3 to 11 p.m., six days a week. He joined
Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and was its Program Director and a member of TSU’s Inter-Fraternity Council. He joined the TSU Players Guild, Los Buenos Vecinos, and University Counselors. He was a member of the Varsity Debaters, the History Study Club, the City Student Council, and the Sigma Rho Sigma and Sigma Delta Pi honor fraternities. He was elected Senior Class president and was listed in Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities in 1957, the year of his graduation from Tennessee State.
Bill spent two years in the U.S. Air Force ROTC and had two draft encounters at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Bill held many positions during a productive professional career. He loved any job that involved meeting people. After moving to Columbus, Ohio, where he married Janet Lee Miller and raised two children, a daughter, Karen, and son, Brian, Bill spent 22 years in the insurance industry. He also worked in commercial radio and hospital administration. He worked for the U.S. Postal Service and for the State of Ohio as an employment specialist. In addition, he was a licensed liquor salesman, a maintenance contractor and demolition contractor, and worked in the salvage business.
Bill’s extended training included the Life Underwriter’s Training Council, the California Wine Institute, and sales training under the tutelage of the world’s best salesman: Joseph H. Bryant, Sr., of South Carolina. Bill liked to say that he earned the “Unconferred Degree of PhD on the streets of America.”
Upon retirement, Bill returned to Nashville and became a community activist for many causes.
He was a volunteer with the Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church Angel Food Program, the First Community Church Bread for the Needy program, an advisor to the Bethlehem Center Advisory
Board on Community Outreach, and a volunteer at Women on Maintaining Education and
Nutrition (W.O.M.E.N.). He was a member of the Silver Program at the Matthew Walker
Comprehensive Health Center, and was a member of the Polio Heroes of Tennessee.
Bill was an active participant in Mayor Bill Purcell’s One City, One People initiative, and was an observer for Mayor (later Governor) Phil Bredesen’s Committee of Twelve to aid in the reduction of crime in Nashville. He was affiliated with the Tennessee Tribune and other local
newspapers and the Fisk University Race Relations Institute. He was president of the Andrew Jackson Resident Association for many years, and was a member of the Metropolitan
Development and Housing Agency’s President’s Council on Race Relations.
As an active and beloved member of Clark Memorial United Methodist Church for 27 years, Bill was an active participant in the Imani Choir, a member of United Methodist Men, and was a
Liturgist on Call. He was part of the Mature Adults Ministry, the Nurture and Membership Caregroup, a Lay Servant Speaker, and part of the Wednesday Mid-Day Meditation Service. He was
a member of the adult bible class and was a volunteer cook for choir breakfasts to feed the
hungry. He was named Clark Memorial’s Man of the Year in 2002. Bill was happy to call
himself a dedicated Servant of God.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents, William and Pauline Cheatham Thompson, sister
Dorothy Shackleford, brothers Samuel and Paul Thompson, wife Janet Lee Miller Thompson,
brothers-in-law Robert Neely and Arleigius Shackleford and daughter-in-law Cathy Pauline
He is survived by son Brian (Betty), daughter Karen, sister Grace Neely, brothers Leslie and
David, many nephews, nieces, and cousins, and beloved friend Inez Williams.
Bill was often ill during his lifetime, but never allowed it to interfere with his life. He was a
dapper and charming gentleman. When asked how he was feeling on any day, his response was always, “Perfect”, and it’s Mr. Perfect he is known as, by many people in the community. We are very grateful for all the friends and colleagues who enriched his life.
Billy, William, Dear Old Dad, Mr. Bill, Mr. Perfect.
He will be deeply missed.
A private memorial service will be held at SAG Funeral home in Nashville on October 23rd, at 10:30am CST. The ceremony will be available on Zoom.