A Vacant Chair

By James W. Adams

Someone has said, “Friendship is the golden thread that ties the hearts of all the world.” On the same subject, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote:

Fame is the scentless sunflower,
With gaudy crown of gold;
But Friendship is the breathing rose,
With sweets in every fold.

Inspiration immortalizes Friendship by having recorded upon its pages the account of one of the most beautiful friendships of human history – that of Jonathan, son of spiritually schizophrenic Saul, the first king of Israel, and David, son of Jesse, sweet singer of Israel, and a “man after God’s own heart.” I pen these lines today through a mist of tears because of the friendship that existed between me and its subject, believing as did Nicholas Grimbold, “Of all the heavenly gifts that mortal man commend, What trusty treasure in the world can countervail a friend?” Not only were the subject of this article and I friends in the purely human sense but we were and are the mutual “Friends” of Jesus in a special spiritual sense which transcends relationships purely earthly and human. I write concerning the recent death of William Floyd Thompson (429 Eastside Avenue, Santa Ana, California) on August 26, 1984.

One of the most poignant statements in the Bible fell from the lips of Jonathan as he conversed with David at Ramah. Jonathan and David were discussing the phrenetic hatred of Saul for David and Saul’s determination to kill him. On the occasion of the new moon, Saul’s important subjects were to eat at the King’s table. David feared that Saul would use the occasion to kill him or have him killed, hence was contemplating not attending. He and Jonathan devised a plan by which Jonathan would determine the King’s attitude and intentions and let David know so that David could attend or flee. Among other things, Jonathan said, “Tomorrow is the new moon: and thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty” (I Sam. 20:18). No doubt Jonathan referred primarily to the fact that Saul would see David’s empty seat and ask, “Why?” However, I am just as sure Jonathan meant that he and others who loved David would miss him in a tender and loving sense.

Since the death of Floyd Thompson, there has been and will continue to be a vacant chair at the table of the King of kings in His kingdom upon this earth, and its former faithful occupant has been and will continue to be “missed!” Very early on the first day of the week, August 26, 1984, the immortal spirit of that devoted disciple of Christ and our dear personal friend and faithful brother in the Lord took its departure from his suffering body to be with Him whom he had so faithfully and for so long served. For him “it is far better.” For us, it is irreparable loss and deep grief.

My acquaintance and personal friendship with Floyd extended over a period of more than thirty years. In 1955, 1 conducted a meeting with the old, Southside congregation meeting at Birth and Fairview in Santa Ana (now Tustin congregation). At the time, Floyd had been its preacher for twenty years. During the meeting, I stayed in the home of Ruth and Floyd Thompson as I have some three times since. My love and respect for these two wonderful Christians began with this meeting and has continued and grown through all the years since those days.

In the entervening years, I have conducted at least two, and I think three, meetings with Floyd and Ruth in California. These meetings were conducted at Fairview or Berrydale congregation in Garden Grove – the last being in late February and early March of this year. During this meeting, Floyd and I drove out to a beautiful cemetery nearby and stood for a few silent moments at the grave of the beloved T.B. Larimore and shed tears of joy and sorrow as we remembered the greatness of his character and the devotion of his service. Little did Floyd know that within a matter of a few months, he would join the beloved Larimore in the “land of the spirits of just men made perfect.”

In addition to the meetings already mentioned, Floyd and Ruth were with us at Tenth and Francis in Oklahoma City (where I preached) for an unusually good meeting. On numerous other occasions, we have been together at meetings, debates, funerals, and lectureships. As recent as June 1980, Floyd assisted in the funeral services for my aged mother at Redondo Beach, California. Floyd had known my mother for many years. As stated, I was with Floyd and Ruth (staying in their home) while conducting a meeting for Fairview congregation in Garden Grove the last of February and first of March. Ken Dart, the local preacher, became ill during the meeting, so Floyd made all of the announcements etc. I also was privileged to sit in his Bible class on Lord’s day morning. During this meeting, Floyd and I spent many pleasant hours talking, studying, and praying together. He and Ruth always had a devotional at the breakfast table at which time we took turns reading the Scriptures and praying. I shall forever cherish the memory of those hours.

Just before this last meeting closed, Floyd told me he was having pains in his back that he did not understand and would see a doctor after the meeting. When he did, it was discovered that he had an inoperable malignancy in an advanced stage of development. All that the very best medical skill could do was done for him but to no avail. During the six months that Floyd lived, he suffered much but with patience and hope. I talked with him twice by telephone during this period. He told me he had hoped to have another five years at least to teach, preach, and otherwise serve the Lord, but he was prepared to go if such was his lot. In my judgment, if any Christian was ever prepared to meet his Lord, it was Floyd Thompson.

Floyd was born in Hughes Co., Oklahoma, April 5,1910. He was baptized into Christ by J.C. Coffman in March 1925. He was married to Ruth Davis, June 26, 1931 He began preaching at Mt. Zion, Shawnee, Oklahoma in i932 and continued there two years. He moved to California in 1935 and began preaching for the Southside Church in Santa Ana. During the early years of service with this congregation, he attended and graduated from George Pepperdine College. He continued to preach for Southside until 1955. At that time, a new congregation meeting on Berrydale began out of the Southside Church and Floyd served as its preacher until a few years ago. At that time, he requested to be relieved of his duties as the regular local preacher and to work with them in another capacity – holding meetings and otherwise preaching for weak churches and doing such work for the local congregation as might be needed. A considerable amount of his and Ruth’s time was spent in counselling Christians beset with difficulties from all over Southern California. They were so well known and so universally respected and loved that multitudes sought their help. Actually, Floyd and Ruth, though laboring with two congregations, largely served the same group of people and others that were added for almost fifty years. Any preacher and his wife who can do this are uncommon people!

Floyd Thompson, though a man of unusual ability, extensive Bible knowledge, and uncommon intelligence was one of the humblest, most self-effacing persons I have ever met. “Popeye,” famous comic character of my youth, used to say, “I yam what I yaml” This describes Floyd Thompson exactly. He was what he was without apology. There was no hypocrisy about him, no sham, no affectation. He knew what he believed and why, and while he was kind, considerate, and compassionate, he never hesitated to state his position clearly and unequivocally. He had his own style of preaching which he copied from no one. He could quote Scripture copiously, but he chose to read most of his selections. His lessons were rich in content, scriptural, intellectual, but always delivered in a spirit of concern that gave them heart power. He was not flamboyant. His style was that of a pungent and powerful teacher. No person ever came away from his lessons without being spiritually enriched by what he heard.

For almost fifty years, Floyd Thompson’s influence stood on the side of truth and right in Southern California. No person has done more for the cause of Christ of lasting quality in that area, in this generation, than did he. People yet unborn will in time to come have occasion to rise and call him “blessed.” Through the vista of the years, “Though being dead, yet will he speak.”

Author’s Note: I have waited several weeks to write this for emotional reasons. Much more could be said, but Floyd would not wish for me eulogize him unduly. Thoughts literally crowd my mind demanding expression, but in deference to Floyd’s humility and dislike of show, I must allow this to suffice. My heart is sad because I shall never again upon this earth eqjoy the comradeship of my beloved friend and brother, but I rejoice in the hope that one day, perhaps sooner than we expect, we shall meet again in never-endingfellowship and together sing the “new song” of redeeming grace and love

“on the banks of the river that flows by the throne of God. ” With deep sympathy for Sister Ruth in her loss, these lines are penned in faith, hope, and love.

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 23, pp. 707-708
December 6, 1984