Charles W. Thompson '55
Tommy Thompson was a huge man—in size, talent, and
amiability. Born in West Virginia on July 22, 1937, he eventually moved to the
Beaches. At Fletcher Jr.-Sr. High School, he ran track, played football, and
earned good grades. After graduation in June, 1955, he went to the University of
Florida on a football scholarship but in 1956 transferred to Kenyon College in
Gambier, Ohio where his friend Harley Henry was a student. Tommy's legend began
at Kenyon; he was a very tough, effective football player who majored in
philosophy, wrote, and had a sensitive nature. He would go to graduate school in
philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1963 but became
more interested in the banjo and Appalachian music. His group, the Hollow Rock String
Band, a quartet, was formed eventually and included his wife Bobbie
Sydenham Thompson, also a Fletcher graduate. After Bobbie died in an
automobile accident in 1972, Tommy formed the Red Clay Ramblers.
The Ramblers, led by Thompson, became well known, playing numerous venues including the Garrison Keillor show. Thompson wrote music and the Ramblers played in the 1993 film, Silent Tongue, by Sam Shepherd.
Unfortunately, Tommy was diagnosed in 1994 with an Alzheimer-like dementia. His memory slowly went. He passed away on January 24, 2003 in Durham, NC. Surviving him are his daughter, Jesse Thomson Eustice and son Tom Ashley and their families; many friends; and millions of fans.
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