He went to a one-room schoolhouse. He married a girl he met in school and raised a family with her. In many ways, James M. Thompson lived the American Dream.
After high school, he attended basic training at Fort McPherson, and went to serve in Bombay and Calcutta during World War II.
In India, he earned a Purple Heart. According to his daughter, Marcy Bell of Dacula, her father was with other platoon members watching their comrades flying during a training exercise. Enemy forces attacked. Those in the air crashed their planes. Thompson and his platoon rushed to help the injured. Among those in the air, none survived. “It wasn’t until I was an adult that I gathered this information from my father,” said Bell. “He kept his Purple Heart in an intricately carved box he got in India.”
After the war, Thompson courted, and married Susie Bell Northcutt.
“He was six years her senior,” said Thompson’s daughter, Shelia Jett of Woodstock. “He had told her for years that he was going to marry her.”
Thompson eventually joined Alpharetta’s police force. Wartime may have been exciting, but peace time brought tension, too. “He was like Andy Griffith,” said Jett, who remembered being picked up from school in a police cruiser. “He tried to make peace.” She told of the time the family was en route from school, and Thompson got a call about a bank robbery. Once the suspect had been caught, she said, “They wanted to transport him in the cruiser we were in – but Dad said no.”
Thompson also operated Main Street Motors, and a body shop (both on Alpharetta’s Main Street). Said Marcy Bell, “I would never have called Dad a cop. He was a peace officer. When he was driving through a neighborhood, if there was time, he’d stop and talk to the kids there.”
James M. Thompson of Alpharetta died Feb. 28 of congestive heart failure. He was 87. The funeral was held March 3. Northside Chapel Funeral Directors, Roswell was in charge of arrangements.
Thompson retired in the 1970s as Alpharetta’s police chief. Jett said while her father eventually closed his businesses, he continued to be a “trader”. He sold motorized wheelchairs, and had a brief stint with Avon. He was, “A very happy person. He was always humming a tune,” she said.
And while life after law enforcement was quieter, Thompson found a role to play. Said Jett, “He was a very loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather. His family was the love of his life.”
He also found a knack for cooking. Said Bell, “His culinary style was Southern. He made fantastic buttermilk biscuits, fried green tomatoes, squash casserole, etc.” She added that it was “not at all uncommon for Dad to spend the entire day in the small kitchen of his apartment preparing elaborate Southern meals” which he would distribute among his neighbors.
Thompson was also a longtime member of Hopewell Baptist Church.
In addition to Jett and Bell, survivors also include daughter Vicky Brown of Suwanee; a son, Marcus Thompson of Canton; six grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.