Amidst the October 1, 2017 morning worship service at First Baptist Church of Mauldin, Garry Smith, a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, presented Mr. Francis David Thompson with the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor in South Carolina, awarded for extraordinary lifetime service. Some four hundred people witnessed the event. Niall Johnston, a family friend, provided introductory remarks highlighting the many ways in which Mr. Thompson has served his community, state, and country. Reverend Wade Leonard preached a sermon entitled “Speaking the Truth without Words” exemplifying the humble and gracious way in which Mr. Thompson has served others throughout his life. Following worship, a dinner including video presentation and displays of memorabilia and photographs celebrated Mr. Thompson’s life.
Born in 1928, Francis Thompson grew up in Piedmont Mill Village. He attended Brevard Junior College and Clemson University where his education was disrupted by a draft into the United States Army. He completed basic training at Fort Jackson with specialized training at Fort Bliss in Texas and served as a Private First Class with the 453rd Engineers from Spokane, Washington in Korea for 13 months. Upon returning home from Korea, Mr. Thompson married his beloved Nell Adams and they began their life together in a Mauldin community home which he built and helped to wire. The Thompsons characterize their 63-year marriage as a partnership where they support each other in service.
Francis Thompson never forgot his Korean experience. A member of the Korean War Veterans Association, he served as its president, and attended many of their annual reunions. He spearheaded the creation of the “Veterans Corridor of Honor” on I-385 in Greenville which honors American veterans of the past century. In 2010 and at the invitation of the Korean government, he and his two sons visited Korea. An active member of the Disabled American Veterans, Mr. Thompson participated in Honor Flight to Washington DC in April 2016. As a volunteer for the American Red Cross for 10 years, Francis Thompson served in 16 major disasters including hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and floods. Among the first to go into a disaster area to access damage and set up services, Mr. Thompson assisted during Hurricane Hugo (1989) where he helped to repair homes in Moncks Corner and the Edgefield tornado (1998). Francis Thompson has also engaged in many other community service organizations and activities including: Habitat for Humanity, the Masons, and the Eastern Star of Mauldin.
Francis Thompson wanted to be a missionary but soon discovered this was not God’s plan so, for over fifty years he taught the children during Sunday School at First Baptist Church of Mauldin. He possessed a real knack for conveying the truth of Bible stories in ways that children readily grasped. Mr. Thompson and his wife Nell planned luncheons, gatherings, and outings to encourage attendance and camaraderie. Even today, his students recall how he drew smiley faces on their thumbs which he called “thumbkins” and gave them Juicy Fruit gum as reward for verse memorization and attendance. His legacy consists of several generations taught and guided by his faithful witness and for this, members of the First Baptist Church of Mauldin express gratitude. Beyond his local church, Mr. Thompson helped with the Greenville Baptist Association’s Camp Marietta for RA boys and GA girls, assisted at the Greenville Baptist Association Senior Adult Hoe-Down in October 2005 at Parisview Baptist Church, and served in Gideons International, Mauldin Chapter.
On May 11, 2017, The South Carolina House of Representatives passed South Carolina House Bill 4333 which outlines Mr. Thompson’s many avenues of service and the reasoning behind this award. The Sunday morning presentation included a copy of this document. One statement from this Resolution captured it all in few words, “Francis David Thompson has given to strengthen those in his own community and beyond by living out his faith in so many practical ways”. During the celebratory luncheon, children eagerly held and were captivated by the memorabilia from his many service endeavors and asked questions about the pictures. His influence and his legacy continue to inspire others.