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Will Lamartine Thompson

Born: November 7, 1847, East Liverpool, Ohio.
September 20, 1909, New York, New York.
Riverview Cemetery, East Liverpool, Ohio.

Will L. ThompsonMr. Thompson donated 100 acres of land to the city of East Liverpool, Ohio to be used as a public park in 1899. Born in East Liverpool, he was the author and composer of “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling”, “Gathering Shells By The Seashore”, and many other religious hymns and popular songs published throughout the world. He was owner of the Thompson Music Company and also donated land to the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church. He started the East Liverpool Historical Society and served as First President and was President of Trustees of Carnegie Library. He received his doctorate of music from Mount Union College and studied at Boston Conservatory of Music and in Leipzig.


Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not His mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?

Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
Passing from you and from me;
Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,
Coming for you and for me.

O for the wonderful love He has promised,
Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,
Pardon for you and for me.

Download Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling. Performed by East Liverpool resident Marguerite Nedreberg.Mrs. Nedreberg is a computer and math instructor for Kent State University’s East Liverpool Campus.

Rebuffed in an early attempt to sell his songs to a commercial publisher, Thompson started his own publishing company. He later expanded, opening a store to sell pianos, organs and sheet music. Both a lyricist and composer, he ensured he would always remember words or melodies that came to him at odd times: “No matter where I am, at home or hotel, at the store or traveling, if an idea or theme comes to me that I deem worthy of a song, I jot it down in verse. In this way I never lose it”. Thompson took ill during a tour of Europe, and his family cut short their travels to return home. He died a few weeks later. When evangelist Dwight Moody was on his deathbed, he told Thompson: “Will, I would rather have written “Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling” than anything I have been able to do in my whole life”. This hymn was sung in the 1985 Academy Award winning movie, “Trip to Bountiful.”

Source: Hall, Jacob Henry. Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1914. www.cyberhymnal.org

Will Thompson, as he is known among his acquaintances, was the youngest son of a family of seven children. His father, Josiah Thompson, was a successful merchant, manufacturer and banker, and for two terms a member of the state legislature. His mother, Sarah Jackman Thompson, was devoted to social and charitable work. All the family were lovers of music, but the youngest son alone made it a serious study. As far back as he can remember he was humming tunes. He readily learned to play on instruments and even while a boy, was in demand as pianist for local concerts. When he was only sixteen years old he composed “Darling Minnie Gray” and “Liverpool Schottische”, both of which were published. He was educated in the public schools of the village. Later he attended Mount Union College in nearby Alliance, Ohio, then as now, the Mecca for worthy young men and women in eastern Ohio who aspire to a liberal education. In the years 1870-3, he attended the Boston Music School, where he took a course in piano, organ and harmony. Near the close of his work here he wrote a song, “Gathering Shells From Seashore”, which when published, almost immediately attained great popularity.