Dorothy Carolyn Mercedes Sample was born to Reverend William A. and Mamie Wylie Sample on January 4, 1931, in Birmingham, Alabama. She was the youngest of four children. Her siblings June, Wylie, and Willette all preceded Dorothy in death.
Dorothy grew up all over the South, living wherever her father pastored. Dorothy was educated in various schools, one being a Presbyterian Missions School, called Cotton Plant Academy. She continued her education at Smith Memorial Junior College, then transferring and graduating from Claflin College (now Claflin University) with a Bachelor's Degree in Music Education 1952. She also minored in English. At Claflin, she was on the college choir and in the band. That is also where she became a member of the sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She was the Homecoming Queen in her senior year. She continued her post graduate education at Temple University.
While teaching a summer class at Claflin University, Dorothy met James Henry Nicholson and they married in 1953, after about six or seven months of courtship. Together they left for Philadelphia so James can attend Law School.Through their union, they were blessed with three children; Brian Keith, James William, and John Sample. Their union lasted twenty-three years.
Dorothy later married Billy Ray Thompson. Sr. in 1983.
Dorothy taught school in South Carolina for 3 years and then in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania until her retirement in 1993. Wharton Center was the first Philadelphia School she taught as a daycare teacher. She then entered the School District of Philadelphia, first as a substitute, then received her appointment a a teacher. Dorothy taught at George Washington Carver School; John B.Kelly School; Birney Elementary School; and Elverson Middle School.
During Dorothy's teaching career, she was recognized for many achievements and received many commendations for her service and dedication. While at Birney Elementary School, she was nominated for a "Celebration of Excellence in Teaching" award. In the nomination letter, it was stated, "Through the medium of music, Mrs. Thompson emphasizes brotherhood and makes them all feel more aware of their similarities than of their differences. She has an enthusiasm which is contagious... " Dorothy wrote the school song for John B. Kelly School in 1971. In 1978, she also wrote the school song for Franklin Smedley Public School, a school she was not assigned to.
In 1986, moved by the loss of all those on the Challenger Space Craft when it exploded, especially the teacher Christa McAuliffe, Dorothy wrote a song "Challenger". She sent the song to Concord High School and Regional Vocational Center, where Christa McAuliffe taught. Dorothy received many than you letters and acknowledgements stating her son have helped with their healing process.
In 1987, the then Superintendent of the Philadelphia Public Schools, Constance E. Clayton, wrote a letter stating "You make schools work!... You work with little fanfare, but you help us to achieve important results." In 1991, while teaching at Elverson Middle School, Dorothy Thompson was nominated for the Teacher of the Year, for the second time. She was the regional winner and one of seven finalists. With part of the money awarded to her, Dorothy began the Dorothy Thompson Student Fund to benefit the students of Elverson.
After dedicating forty-two years of teaching and challenging children to reach their full potential, she retired from teaching for the Philadelphia Public School System.
As a child, Dorothy gave her life to the Lord, Jesus Christ, and although she studied music education, she realized God had truly anointed her with a gift in music. She was able to play both, the piano and organ. She also wrote many songs, several of which were published. Dorothy played for many churches, including her church of which she was truly faithful. After retirement, she also played for school events and graduations, and for anyone who would call upon her, needing her gift. She also gave xylophone lessons at Germantown Christian Academy Daycare and Learning Center. Additionally, Dorothy loved to share readings of African American poets and writers with children to help educate all children in Black history.
Dorothy will be remembered as bieing loving, giving, prayerful, and funny. She had many sayings, two of which are: "Merciful Father!" and "that little jitterbug!"
She loved being with family to celebrate birthdays, holidays, and special occasions. She also enjoyed spending time with friends, shopping for clothes, spending money on her grandchildren, going to get her hair done with her granddaughter taking short one hour day trips with her grandson, going to Peddler's Village, eating ice cream, eating some good ole sweet potato pie, and poetry. When asked, Dorothy said her greatest joys in life are "serving the Lord through her music; having been blessed with two wonderful grandchildren: Brianna Nicholson and James Nicholson II; and teaching.
Dorothy leaves to treasure and celebrate her life: her husband, Billy Thompson; three sons, Brian Nicholson, James Nicholson, and John Nicholson; step-daughter, Jean Thompson Jackson, daughter-in-law, Latrelle Nicholson; grandchildren, Brianna Nicholson and James Nicholson II; niece, Winifred Saulter, goddaughter, Stephanie Odoms; and a host of family and friends.
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