October 12, 1922 ~ September 27, 2011
James Calvin Thompson Jr.
October 12, 1922 – September 27, 2011
James Calvin Thompson, Jr., was born October 12, 1922 to James, Sr. and Mary Thompson in Marshall, Texas. James moved to Los Angeles in 1932 from Marshall to live with his oldest brother Wendell.
We pay tribute to a man for all seasons—a great athlete, dedicated teacher, beloved father and grandfather, and wonderful human being. He was above all, a gifted athlete--a high scoring football star, high soaring pole-vaulter, a champion boxer, who possessed a lethal punch with either hand, and one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. This was James Calvin Thompson, Jr., a man given various endearing nicknames during his lifetime, including "Peter,","Champ," and "Turk." He was a man, who despite his many accomplishments, remained a modest and humble person throughout his life.
James began his education at 96th Street School in Los Angeles, and went on to attend Jordan Junior and Senior High School in Los Angeles, where he served as student body president during his senior year in 1939. He was involved in athletics first as an outstanding athlete, and later spent the majority of his life coaching track and field and cross country running.
His record of athletic achievements as a football player and track and field star at Jordan was unparalleled. James, the athlete, played quarterback and halfback in football and was a pole-vaulter in track and field. At Jordan, he was a four-year letterman in football, one year on the "B" team, and three years with the varsity, and was co-captain of the football team in 1939. He was selected as an All-Eastern league halfback. He was also captain of the track and field team in 1940, and held the pole vault record at Jordan that stood for fifteen years.
James attended Compton College in California, where he quarterbacked the football team, and was a member of the 1941 southern California track championship team. James also attended Bishop College in Marshall, Texas, for one year on a football scholarship.
At the onset of World War II, he returned to Compton College for the 1942 football season before entering the Army Air Corps in February 1943. Even so, he continued to pursue his passion--athletics. He was quarterback for the Godman Field Bombers, the Army Air Corps championship football team, while serving as a tail gunner on a B-25 aircraft. He placed third in the National Junior Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) track meet in 1943 and fifth in the Senior AAU in New York City. While a student in aircraft armament school in Denver, Colorado, "Champ," as he was called in the service, won the 1944 Rocky Mountain AAU pole-vault championship.
In 1942, during World War II, James became a member of the distinguished 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps. He ultimately received the 2007 Tuskegee Airman's Congressional Gold Medal for his military service during World War II.
When the war was over, James "Champ" Thompson finished his last semester at Compton College, and transferred to Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1948 in Physical Education from Humboldt State University. In 1970, he was inducted into the Humboldt State University Athletic Hall of Fame. As one of the local newspapers described him during his playing days, "Lumberjacks speedy little field general James "Turkey" Thompson is small, but mighty." James Thompson was among the first black athletes who excelled as a leader at the position of quarterback during the racial turbulence of the 1940's. "Turk" or "Turkey" was the name given to James at Humboldt because of his boxing prowess. He was Northern California middleweight boxing champion for two years and Northern California Golden Gloves champ for the period 1946 to 1947. In track and field, "Turk" won the Far Western Conference pole vault championship while at Humboldt.
James was an educator with the Los Angeles Unified School District for thirty-two years. He was an instructor and athletic coach at San Pedro Street Elementary School, Mark Twain Junior High School, Jacob Riis High School, and Locke High School. He was also a great asset to Los Angeles Southwest College, where he coached the cross country and track and field teams. He was honored and proud to have coached students who went on to play professional football and participate on United States Olympic track and field teams. James also completed graduate course work in Educational Administration at the University of Southern California. He became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated.
In 1945, James, the family man, married Leonora Forrest, who was also from Marshall, Texas. His beloved Leonora preceded him in death in February 2000. Leonora was also a teacher in the Los Angeles city school system. The couple shared 55 years of marriage and two children, Keith and Peter. James was an avid golfer for much of his adult life, and traveled to many places in the world with his lovely wife and family.
After James retired from teaching and coaching, he started a family business by building "Woodcrest Lodge" in Riverside, California. "Woodcrest Lodge" was a home for young boys in need of shelter and guidance. James, along with his son Peter, and other family members and friends, operated Woodcrest for more than ten years.
James is survived by his oldest son Keith Thompson, a resident of Oceanside, California and his grand children Jahi of San Diego, California and Jamila of Atlanta, Georgia; and youngest son Peter and wife Adrienne, of Los Angeles, who, along with their sons Conrad and Roman, provided a home and loving care to James for the last twelve years of his life. James also leaves behind his younger brother Jack Thompson, and wife Barbara, of Gardena, California and sister Willie Vera Thompson-Patrick of San Jose, California, as well as a host of family members and friends. James was preceded in death by his daughter-in-law, Susan Thompson; his dear brothers Wendell and Alzue Thompson; and sisters Elnora Thompson and Faye Thompson–Haley.
A sportsman's prayer that James loved goes like this: Dear Lord, in the battle that goes on through life, I ask but a field that is fair, a chance to strive and to dare, and if I should win, Let it be by the code, with my faith and my honor held high, and if I should lose, let me stand by the road and cheer as the winners go by.
For Immediate Release: James Thompson Announcement: – All Print, Network and Broadcast Media contact: Peter D. Thompson at 323-252-3625 or email@example.com
Services for James Calvin Thompson, Jr. will be held on Saturday, October 22, 2011 at McCormick Funeral Home Chapel at 10:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests your generous donation to the Alpha Kappa Alpha Educational Advancement Foundation – Thompson Endowed Scholarship Fund at www.akaeaf.org
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