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Profiles from the Archives: Joe W. Thompson

Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist

Joe Willoughby Thompson was born on May 31, 1900, to C.B. and Mary J. Thompson, in Wayne County, N.C.—six miles east of Goldsboro on a 265-acre family farm. There were fourteen children in the Thompson family. Joe’s parents decided to leave Wayne County in the fall of 1910, and they sold the farm in order to move to Chatham County, N.C. In 1916, Joe’s father was killed somehow by a train, and the family sold their farm in Chatham County. In September 1916, Joe Thompson became a Christian, joining the local Baptist church congregation.

Thompson enlisted in the 2nd North Carolina Infantry, North Carolina National Guard, on April 16, 1917, in Goldsboro, N.C. He was assigned to the Supply Company of the 2nd Infantry. Thompson was 16 years old at the time of his enlistment, though he lied about his age to get in the U.S. Army—saying he was 18 years old.

When the North Carolina National Guard was called into federal service for World War I, Joe Thompson moved with his unit to Spartanburg, S.C. He and his unit guarded the construction work for the new Camp Wadsworth in Spartanburg. Thompson would end up training at Camp Sevier, S.C. He was later transferred into Supply Company, 119th Infantry, 30th Division, U.S. Army, in which unit he served until he was discharged.

Joe Thompson was appointed a wagoner on May 1, 1917; a mechanic on October 20, 1917; and back to a wagoner on March 1, 1918. He served overseas from May 11, 1918, through December 21, 1918, and was honorably discharged on January 27, 1919. Thompson was severely wounded on September 3, 1918, though the injury is unknown.

After the war, Joe Thompson married Lucile (or Lucille) Grace Thomas in Raleigh, N.C., on December 21, 1923. By 1930, the Thompsons were living in Raleigh with a young daughter Mary, and Joe worked as a blacksmith for a railroad. By 1940, the Thompsons had moved to the town of Hamlet in Richmond County, N.C., where Joe continued his work as a blacksmith. Joe W. Thompson died in Harnett County, N.C., on November 23, 1992, at the age of 92.

To learn more about Joe Thompson’s WWI service, check out his wartime photographs in the Joe W. Thompson Photographs (WWI 24), in the WWI Papers of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh, N.C.

This blog post is part of the State Archives of North Carolina’s World War I Social Media Project, an effort to bring original WWI archival materials to the public through the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ (NCDNCR) various social media platforms, in order to increase access to the items during the WWI centennial celebration by the state of North Carolina.

Between February 2017 and June 2019, the State Archives of North Carolina will be posting blog articles, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts, featuring WWI archival materials which are posted on the exact 100th anniversary of their creation during the war. Blog posts will feature interpretations of the content of WWI documents, photographs, diary entries, posters, and other records, including scans of the original archival materials, held by the State Archives of North Carolina, and will be featured in NCDNCR’s WWI centennial blog.