The family and friends of George Wynder Thompson have organized a grand celebration for his 100th birthday on January 15, 2021 to honor his life and his accomplishments. To accommodate the safety restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic, the nine adult children and others have arranged for a drive by 100-car birthday parade at 11:30 a.m. in his front yard at 6800 Doc Corbett Rd, Mebane, NC and also a 3:00 p.m. Zoom Celebration for well wishers. Interested participants are requested to RSVP at GeorgeWThompson100@gmail.com or by calling (919) 563-1896 by January 10.
Mr. Thompson has touched many lives over his 100 years. A 16’ x 8’ birthday countdown sign has been erected in his front lawn to add to the festive atmosphere where Mr Thompson will watch his guests (in their cars) pass by from behind a safe and heated glass enclosure. Invitations have gone out to family and friends from around the region, including invitations to Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina and former United States President Barack Obama.
Mr. Thompson has been an active, life long learner and a God-loving man all his life. He was affectionately known by his family growing up as “Wynder”. He married his wife, Ira Belle Vinson Thompson, his wife for 53 years until her passing. Together they reared and educated nine (9) children. He retired from active employment at age 65. While he held other jobs, especially at Burlington Industries, he loved farming. One of his proverbial statements is, "If you take care of the land, it will take care of you." He still lives on the land he farmed in Cedar Grove.
Mr Thompson gave much time to Civic affairs in Cedar Grove, NC in Orange Co. He was the first president of the Cedar Grove Development Association, somewhat a forerunner of the current Cedar Grove Community Center. As an active member of the Union Grove Baptist Church in Hurdle Mills, NC, he's held several positions, including usher, trustee, deacon, Sunday School teacher and Superintendent of Sunday School.
At 80, he learned to use email. Until recent years, he was invited each year to be a speaker for the elderly at Friendship Adult Day Center in Alamance County, and before the Pandemic, he attended weekly the local senior center in Hillsborough, NC (Orange Co). In 2009, he took an Alaskan Cruise, one of his bucket list accomplishments. In 2013, he wrote a short nonfiction book, “Your Head is a Storehouse.”
The purpose was to tell younger generations about old times and how African-Americans lived when he was a boy. This book was a desire to pass on his history. In 2014, on his 93rd birthday, he met President Barack Obama. He said, "I never would have believed that I would live to see a black president in the White House." His photo with Obama hangs in his home as a prized possession. Mr Thompson has led a life that inspired many and is a cause for celebration.
The following is an excerpt from George Wynder Thompson’s 2013 book, “Your Head is a Storehouse,” with updates to the text provided in parentheses.
“At church, unlike at somebody’s house, the mourner’s bench was the first pew reserved for new members; at someone’s home, the mourner’s bench was the seats up front reserved for those who would give their life to Christ. Rev.Ulysses Chavious, the Union Grove pastor at that time, gave the invitation. He usually extended it twice, but that night, he said, “Tonight I got the feeling that there is somebody who wants to accept Christ as their savior, ” so he extended the invitation a third time. “Anybody want to give their life to Christ, this is your time,” he said. And the people started singing another verse of the song. I started praying to the Lord, “I don’t ‘member being bad, never killed nobody, I go to church, but I heard Him say, You may not have done no harm, but there are two roads – one narrow and one broad and you are traveling on the broad road, the wrong road. And this is your time.”
I don’t know what happened, but I got up and went to the front of the room and gave my life to Christ. I was baptized at Union Grove Baptist Church in Hurdle Mills, NC, the very next third Sunday. I started serving in the church, and since that time, I been a usher, Sunday School teacher, deacon, superintendent and recently retired as deacon emeritus. Seemed like right after I joined the church, for a while, I didn’t know what was happening. I started being called and treated like everything except a child of God. A lot of it was directed toward our children: we was having children so fast, and people made wisecracks about our having so many.
“Belle, you got’ em so clean they shine.”
“What do you do to keep them from jumping on your beds all the time?”
“Has any of ‘em ever fell out of your car? “
“Wynder, we have television now, so you don’t need to take your children to church every Sunday; let’ em stay home and watch television. Television came on the scene around 1946, but many of us didn’t own them until the 50s, but Belle’s parents did, so we’d take the children to Ms. Vinson’s television, but I didn’t want them missing Sunday School to stay home to watch television.
We swallowed a lot of criticism, but I’m so glad God guided my life, then, and I haven’t found any fault in Him yet. I have lost my “Belle,” but we had 53 years together; she was my rock. She passed in 1999, but she didn’t leave me alone. We had nine children, and her spirit lives in them, my grandchildren, and me. Through teaching our children to overcome trials and tribulations, ignore negative criticism, continue to love those that will treat you wrong, and stay focused on God and His wisdom to guide you, I would like to say that today my oldest son (retired now) is a Certified Quality Engineer and was Vice-President of Quality Assurance at Continental. My oldest daughter is Professor Emeritus at Elon University and has taken students several times to study abroad in Africa. My second son became a supervisor for the United States Postal Services after a tour of duty in the US Army. My second oldest daughter held a very high position as Finance Manager at General Motors, and she received the GM Chairman award, the highest honor that GM gives an employee. My third daughter works for one of the largest banks in the nation and now is the Vice President of Global Corporate Investment for Bank of America. My baby son has retired from his job at GM and became an office manager for Hull Machine & Tool Division and currently owns his home- based business. My fourth daughter (now retired) is the first African American IT Manager at the NC Department of Justice and currently serves as Project Director for that Division, (retired, awarded Order of Long Leaf Pine) and my baby has graduated from college and has written her first book, (3 now) a custom service manager for Food Lion for the Greensboro South Region. Most of all my third son who was my prodigal, has returned home safe. I thank God and give Him all the glory and praise, for he has kept me these 92 years.
At my 90th birthday party, I said to friends and family, and I feel the same way today: I try to owe no man nothing. Just about all of my wants, needs and dreams have all been met. God has been really good to me. I ‘m in pretty good health and in my right mind, so when Gods says, “Welcome, my good and faithful servant, “that’ ll be just fine with me even though I appreciate all the time He’ll give me.”
“One thing that is interesting about Dad is that his folks called him Wynder, Uncle Wynder, Cun Wynder (for Cousin Wynder),” says Mr. Thompson’s daughter, Iris Chapman. “Most folk knew him after he married as George. I don't know a soul on the Vinson side (mom's side of the family) who called him Wynder. He also was a salesman- vegetables, Amway products, Noni juice, headstones, and lots more.”
The following is a letter submitted to former United States President Barack Obama on behalf of the Thompson family, prepared by George Wynder Thompson’s daughter, Iris Chapman.
Greetings President Obama:
On Wednesday, January 15, 2014, you came to North Carolina State University to talk about the impact that a new manufacturing hub would have on the state’s economy. Upon realizing you would be in Raleigh on our Dad’s 93rd birthday, our whole family – all nine of us – worked relentlessly to get him to the event so that he could see you in person. My sister, Rosa McAfee, was a friend of your Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, who was able to place Dad on the front row at the event! My sister, Loretta Wynder (then at the NCDOJ) accompanied him throughout the day.
When you finished speaking, you came down and shook his hand, and said, Hello, Mr. Thompson, I understand today is your birthday. . .is there anything I can do for you? To which Dad replied, just keep on doing what you’re doing. Later, an attendant brought Dad your signed congratulatory card and a box of M&M's. Also, I hope you received his book “Your Head is a Storehouse,” as it was given to one of the attendants who said he would give it to you. This picture, of you and Dad, was mounted on canvas and has been like an heirloom and a conversation piece in his home since. Dad was so elated, and has repeated several times, I thought I’d never live to see a black president in the White House.
Our father, George Wynder Thompson, will be 100 years old on January 15, 2021. Because of COVID 19, we are planning a 100-car parade at 11:30 a.m. and a Zoom Program Celebration at 3:00 p.m. Since you are one of Dad's favorite people, we really want you to be a part of his celebration: we invite you to the Zoom presentation if your schedule allows you to zoom in. Many people are recording their birthday greetings in advance these days and sending them to the birthday person any time before their birthday. I'm sure Dad would love this as well, and it may be the most convenient way for you to participate. Truly, any way you choose to be a part of his birthday celebration, would be most appreciated by all of us. Because of his advanced age, Dad may not be able to respond to you with clarity, but, if you call, know that he will be able to hear you. Except for his love for Christ and family, we know little else that would please him more.