In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Cecil L. Thompson, 90

Cecil Thompson, 1929-2020

Cecil L. Thompson, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel among the American Affinity Peoples in Argentina and through the Spanish Baptist Publishing House in El Paso, Texas, died May 8, 2020, in Knoxville, Tenn. He was 90.

Thompson was born in 1929 in Lenoir, N.C., and grew up in Morganton, a small town in western North Carolina. He was son of the late Ruby Denton and the late Marcus Ulry Thompson.

Thompson became a Christian at age 11 and became involved in Youth for Christ as a teen. He wrote when seeking missionary appointment that he helped organize Youth for Christ in Morganton and responded publicly when one of their speakers asked them to consider that God might want them to be a missionary. “To have denied the willingness to respond to the Lord’s will was to me almost like denying being a Christian: therefore, I responded.” But that willingness didn’t become a clear calling to foreign missions until years later.

Thompson delivered his first sermon, at a prisoner work camp, just before leaving for college. “The conversion of a young man in that service gave me my first genuine thrill in the ministry,” he wrote.

He received the Bachelor of Arts from Carson-Newman University, Jefferson City, Tenn., and the Bachelor of Divinity and Doctor of Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.

While in college, Thompson became pastor of a mission, which became a church five months later. While in seminary he served as pastor of several rural missions in Oklahoma and later as pastor of Russett (Okla.) Baptist Church. He also worked as a teaching fellow at Southwestern seminary, a time when he came to feel a clear calling to foreign missions.

While in seminary, he met and married, Jean Ward, a fellow student who was already deeply interested in missions. They were appointed missionaries by the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) in 1956.

They served as missionaries for about 35 years. The first 20 years Thompson was a professor at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He then served in several capacities at the Baptist Spanish Publishing House in El Paso, Texas. After they retired, they moved to Knoxville, Tenn., Jean’s hometown.

Thompson is survived by his wife of 66 years, Jean; daughter, Becky Thompson; son, Andrew Thompson; and brother, Bill Thompson.

A private graveside service was held. A video of the service may be viewed here.

Read an obituary here.