The Rev. Branan G. Thompson Jr., 83, who served both Baptist and United Methodist Churches throughout the Roanoke Valley for more than 50 years, died Wednesday, February 24, at his home in the Oak Grove area of Roanoke County. He had been in declining health for the past two years.
His funeral was conducted Saturday, February 27, at Windsor Hills United Methodist Church where he had served for the past 20 years as minister to senior adults; in that role he often led bus tours to Western Virginia sites that were open to friends outside the membership.
His major survivors are sons, Scott B. Thompson and partner James Duplissie of Portland, Maine, and John D. Thompson of New York City and a sister, Dixie Alexander of Atlanta.
The widower of Gay Frith Thompson of Rocky Mount, the pastor was a native of Milledgeville, Georgia. He grew up in the rural community of New Hope where early on he acquired love of fishing.
With an early interest in medicine, Thompson instead became a Southern Baptist minister. His undergraduate education was taken at Mercer University with further studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, and at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and Union Theological Seminary in New York.
His early interest in medicine was demonstrated in the years in the Roanoke Valley that he actively supported groups to bring clergy and physicians together to effect healing of body and spirit. Especially was this important in the active years of the Roanoke Valley Ministers Conference some 40 years ago.
Thompson was known in many groups in the area for his skill in presenting magic tricks and in creativity displayed in music. He served on the boards of several valley organizations especially those concerned with mental health and music.
Although he came to the area in 1968 to serve as an early pastor of Colonial Avenue Baptist Church and remained there for 30 years, he was unable to accept the increasing conservatism on many human cultural issues now favored by leaders of the predominant Southern Baptist Convention. After leaving Colonial Avenue, he joined the neighborhood United Methodist parish where he helped establish programs and ministries for older members.
Among his distinctions was composing a song, “Virginia’s My Home” which became one of the final selections as a new state anthem was being promoted to replace one with outmoded lyrics in use for many decades.
- Submitted by Frances Stebbins