The Rev. Nelson “Fuzzy” Thompson for decades kept alive the voice and spirit of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement in Kansas City. That continued on Sunday at the annual citywide celebration at Community Christian Church to honor King.
One chair on stage was left open to honor Thompson, who died earlier in the day. As the longtime president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City, Thompson founded the Interfaith Service and for decades has championed the largest area celebration honoring the national holiday for King..
Thompson, 70, was praised repeatedly at the service. “The love here is so thick you could cut it with a knife,” said the keynote speaker, the Rev. Charles G. Adams with the Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit.
Thompson, who had been executive director of the Martin Luther King Urban Center in Kansas City, Kan., was a tireless civil rights advocate on local, national and international stages. He fearlessly pushed corporations and governments to increase minority contracts, hiring and promotions and was a frequent advocate for justice for African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans. Thompson’s international work included trips to South Africa during the anti-apartheid movement.
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Thompson had struggled with health issues for more than a decade, including dialysis and a kidney transplant in 2006. He would, nevertheless, attend the King holiday programs each year, sometimes in a wheelchair, where he was always cheered for his work.
Thompson was deeply committed to the United States living up to its civil rights ideals for minorities. He deserves praise for helping to prepare many others to continue the work.