James Calvin Thompson died May 17, 2020 due to complications involving COVID and kidney failure. At the time of passing he was residing long-term (for Alzheimers) at the Cobble Hill Health Center, Brooklyn, NY, where he received exceptionally kind, compassionate, quality care.
Jim, JT, Jimmy, or Mr. T— he answered to all the names — is survived by his wife of 46 years, Dolores Brandon Thompson. They have lived in Prospect Heights since 1976.
Born in Williston, South Carolina on September 24, 1944, Thompson came north at the age of 9 to live with his father, Harold B. Thompson and his stepmother, Marceline Thompson in Canarsie, and later, Baisley Park. That family grew to include his brother Tom (currently living in Connecticut) and a sister, Sherrie (now deceased).
His mother Roberta Holmes lived and worked in Bed Stuy, where Jim would attend JHS 35. This family grew to include a sister, Lorraine Jackson (deceased) and her son Rasheen (now living in New Jersey).
As a talented young basketball player Thompson was in demand and chose to spend his high school years at Franklin K. Lane (Class of 1963), where he became co-captain of the team, All-City, (he played championship games at Madison Square Gardens) and earned a scholarship to Chanute College in Kansas. Returning to Brooklyn, he began what would become a forty + year career, spent almost exclusively in the Fort Greene housing projects (Walt Whitman Houses). Starting as an assistant teacher at the Willoughby House Day Care center (1966 – 1989), Jim later joined a Drug Intervention Program (SAPIS) as a counsellor to at-risk elementary-age schoolchildren attending PS 67.
Mr. Thompson was beloved in the neighborhood and made a real difference in the lives of the children he served (and amused), as well as the teachers and principals he never said No to. Parents knew they could trust him to love and care for their children as if they were his own.
He helped many parents get their child into the school of their choice. He never missed a day of work and although not required to be there for the breakfast program, he made it a duty to get there every morning to welcome each child and bring a smile to each face. Many were struggling against heartbreaking odds
Uniquely talented as an athlete with a joyful, playful spirit, competitive, but always the true sportsman, he threw himself wholeheartedly into HIGH ENERGY, an afterschool basketball program, devoting his Saturday mornings to building team-sport skills and leadership qualities that would set young men on paths to success and achievement.
Beyond the day job, Thompson dedicated himself to community politics and initiatives that focused on providing access to life-enhancing resources — senior centers and daycare centers throughout Brooklyn. Mentored by Sam Pinn Jr., Thompson was a founding board member and Vice-Chair to Mr. Pinn Jr. at the Fort Greene Council Inc., known also for the popular, long-running entertainment venue Jazz @ 966.
Mr. Thompson and his dear friend and working colleague Thomas Gaffney were tireless get-out-the-vote campaigners in the historic 1980 campaign that elected Roger L. Green to the NYS Assembly; it was a campaign that required Green to win an unprecedented three primary runoffs. Voters in the Fort Greene housing projects, organized and driven by the enthusiasm of Thompson and Gaffney, never gave up — they came out in force all three times.
A few years later, Mr. Thompson was elected overwhelmingly to the District 13 School Board and served for one term: more comfortable as an agitator than a politician, he chose not to run again.
James Thompson is survived by a brother, Tom, several aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. His wife, Dolores currently resides in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, where they have lived since 1974. James Thompson will be cremated. Ashes will eventually be placed in a grave they have in Toronto, Ontario, Canada — his wife’s hometown. A virtual memorial service is being planned. Information can be obtained by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Text and Photo: Delores Brandon Thompson