Nellis (Ned) Thompson, Jr., 83, died June 1, 2016 at home surrounded by his family. Ned was best known in Sanford as Principal Thompson, having spent much of his working life as an elementary school principal. A native of Morganton, NC, and the son of the late Nellis Albert Thompson, Sr. and Lona Jaynes Thompson, Ned spent a great deal of his youth fishing and playing baseball. When he was not in a trout stream or on the ball field, Ned was learning a great deal about life in his father’s dry cleaning business. He was a starter in both baseball and football at Morganton High School. He married his high school sweetheart, Ann, in 1952. Soon after, he enlisted into the US Air Force, carrying him to Colorado, Louisiana, Arkansas and Japan. After serving his country, Ned enrolled in Lenoir Rhyne College and transferred to Appalachian Teaching College where he earned a degree in Education. He went on to earn a Master’s in Education from East Carolina University.
Ned began his career in education, teaching physical education at David Miller Junior High School in Asheville, NC. From there he became the Head Coach of the junior varsity football team at Goldsboro High and then on to his first principal position at High Falls School. Exploring the idea of career change, Ned became the Personnel Director of Skyland Textile Company in Morganton. At Skyland, he implemented the first on-site industrial child care center in North Carolina. This gained the attention of Gerber Corporation, who was exploring the idea of selling and establishing corporate child care facilities. Gerber Children’s Centers of Asheville hired Ned to promote this new concept to companies across the country. An idea ahead of its time, Ned decided to return to what he was meant to do and accepted the principal position at Deep River School in Sanford.
During his career with Lee County Schools, Ned served as principal at Deep River School, W.B. Wicker Elementary, Jonesboro Elementary and J.R. Ingram Elementary. After retiring from Lee County and while on a scenic drive through the mountains, Ned and Ann passed through the Cherokee Indian Reservation. Driving by the Cherokee school offices, he was compelled to stop and ask if they needed any help. After serving as assistant principal at Cherokee High School for one year, Ned moved to Cherokee Elementary as the principal and served there for another two and half years.
In addition to children and their education, Ned’s passions included God, family, fishing, baseball hunting and Gospel music. He is survived by his sister, Lillian Hoyle of Morganton, his wife of 64 years, Ann Smith Thompson, son Alex and his wife Sheila, son Gil and his wife Patricia, son Lee and his wife Rebecca, and grandchildren Meagan, Jared, Samantha, Joshua, Henry and Stuart.
A celebration of faith and music in memory of Ned will be held at Saint Luke United Methodist Church in Sanford on June 12 at 2:00. In Morganton, a Memorial service will be held at the First United Methodist Church, on July 9th at 11:00am. Interment will follow in the Church Columbarium and a reception will follow in the Church Fellowship Hall.
Gifts in memory of Ned’s life may be made to The ALDERSGATE Sunday School Class of the First United Methodist Church, 200 North King Street, Morganton, NC 28655 (828-437-0921).