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‘Look Out St. Peter, You Got Somebody Coming’

The Rev. Sam Mann Stirs Crowd at Community Homegoing Celebration for Cheryl Christie (Love) Thompson

Photo of Cheryl Thompson at her funeral At Thatcher's Funeral Home Tuesday, the funeral for Cheryl Thompson drew a full house. (Photo: Steve Mencher | Flatland)
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Cheryl Christie (Love) Thompson, widow of the late civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Nelson “Fuzzy” Thompson, was remembered Tuesday as a force for good in her own right and as an unyielding ally of her husband.

Thompson, who died June 17 at the age of 71, was welcomed home in a ceremony at Thatcher’s Funeral Home in Kansas City, Kansas – with an overflow crowd attesting to the Thompsons’ status as two of the most influential social justice advocates that Kansas City has ever known.

Cheryl Thompson served on numerous local boards, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey and the planning board for the Missouri State Legislative Convention. Her husband was most notably director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference here and organizer of the city’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations. He died in January 2015.

On a hot June afternoon, many in the crowd at Thatcher’s funeral home smiled knowingly when the Rev. Sam Mann extolled Thompson’s virtues, and many chuckled when he hinted at her strong convictions and unalterable opinions.

Mann was a friend and ally of the Thompsons, and though he is white, is considered by many in Kansas City’s black clergy to be one of them. Mann, who retired from St. Mark’s Union Church in 2010, marched with King and joined in the civil rights struggles of the century at the side of leaders in Kansas City and around the globe.

Mann’s eulogy, delivered in the cadence of a Sunday sermon, had the crowd laughing, crying and offering a few amens. Here are some excerpts:

  • “Cheryl was not your typical pietistic Christian. One day we were out at Ward Parkway, having a racial sensitivity thing. The thing was going lackadaisical. It wasn’t moving good. It was ‘goo goo’ this and ‘ha ha’ that. Cheryl did not like it because it was on the surface. Cheryl just headed out the door and said ‘I can’t take none of this.’
  • “She even knocked Jesse Jackson out. She never forgave Jesse Jackson for not giving Fuzzy a seat on his airplane one time.
  • “First time I saw Cheryl Thompson was at Glide Foundation in San Francisco in the late 1960s. Her afro did not have one hair out of place.
  • “She was faithful until the end, not in the pietistic way of praying all the time. But pursuing justice, mercy for this nation, for this world, until the time we all get together. Her faith was the faith of the Canaanite woman. The Canaanite woman came to Jesus and wouldn’t go away, she just kept talking about justice and mercy and healing.”
  • “Great is her faith. When I heard she passed I said, ‘Look out St. Peter. You got somebody coming. You better get ready. She’s going to want to find out what condition heaven is in, especially for the children.’

This story is part of the KCPT and Hale Center for Journalism project Beyond Belief, a series of stories and discussions about faith in our city. The project is part of Localore: Finding America, created by AIR, a Boston-based network of independent public media producers. Principle funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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