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William Thomas Thompson

(1935– )

William Thomas Thompson

William Thomas Thompson was born on a dairy farm in South Carolina, and joined the Pentecostal Baptist denomination at the age of 13. After high school in the 1950s, William served stateside in the United States Army Signal Corps. In 1957, he opened a five-and-dime store in Greenville and soon began wholesaling artificial flowers. As his business grew, he imported products from Europe and Asia, flew his own airplane, developed his own integrated software and opened an office in Hong Kong. He was, by now, a self-made millionaire. But in the mid-'70s, his business began losing more and more money until he finally had to declare bankruptcy. Around the same time as his financial disaster, Thompson developed Guillain-Barré syndrome, a nerve disease that paralyzed him below the knees and partially crippled his hands.

In 1989, on a return trip from Hong Kong, still desperately attempting to save his business, he stopped on the Hawaiian island of Oahu to receive treatment for his paralytic condition. While there, he attended a Sunday morning church service and suddenly experienced what he calls "an anointing of the Lord," a revelatory and apocalyptic vision of the world on fire. After seeing his vision, he rushed to buy paints and brushes. When he returned home from his trip, he was brought off the plane in a wheelchair, carrying his first completed painting in his hands. During the following months he began to fill his house with apocalyptic canvases. Although some of the hundreds and hundreds of paintings he has produced concern gentler topics like landscapes and still lifes, his primary inspirations continue to be the Book of Revelation and his interpretations of its symbolic messages.

Thompson's "Seven Days of Creation" are featured hanging from the ceiling of the Tall Sculpture Barn–a gift by the artist to AVAM's Permanent Collection–depicting the biblical Seven Days of Creation. Each canvas is 12 x 16 feet (more than 1300 square feet, total), acrylic on canvas. Thompson lives with his wife in the old Gassaway Mansion in Greenville, South Carolina, where his works are stacked against the walls throughout the house. He does most of his painting in a large room that was once the mansion's second-floor ballroom.

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