“The People’s CEO,” John C. Thompson, Passes Away at 91.

The new year got off to a sad start when an icon of the Hall China Company passed away on Jan. 4. John C. Thompson, 91, was Hall’s former CEO and long-time Chairman of the Board, but that doesn’t begin to capture his impact on the company, the pottery industry, and the community he served. 

Thompson was a lifetime resident of Hall’s base of operations, East Liverpool, Ohio, other than schooling and periods of military service. He attended Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance, and served in the Navy during the Korean War. Later in life he maintained a second home in Lake Placid, N.Y., so he could engage in his skiing hobby, but his heart was always with the people and community of East Liverpool.

Mr. Thompson was born into one of the city’s pottery families and later had family ties to the Hall China Company when his aunt married the son of founder Robert Hall. By 1951, Mr. Thompson’s father, Malcolm W. “Mac” Thompson, was president of Hall and encouraged his son to become involved with the company, too. Eventually, in 1981, John Thompson became CEO of Hall China, a position he would hold for 16 years. He later served as Chairman of the Board.

Thompson was known for his omnipresent bow tie, his devotion to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his constant cheerleading for his hometown.

Current Homer Laughlin ecommerce manager Bill Crawford got his start with the company as director of information systems at Hall China, where he worked with Thompson for 15 years. 

“It sounds cliched, but he was a gentleman and a scholar,” said Crawford. “I have the utmost respect for him. Being a descendant of the family that started Hall, he was very committed to his work. John was very knowledgeable about the pottery industry, and the processes and procedures. His memory was impressive, and I loved listening to his stories. Between his military service, time at Yale, his travels, and time in the pottery industry, he had a lot of stories to tell. He remained active until very late in life. I’d see him jogging around the neighborhood or working out at the YMCA. I still wear a bow tie occasionally in his honor.”

Thompson was a lifelong booster of East Liverpool, his community service including director and Chairman of the Board of East Liverpool City Hospital, involvement with the Buckeye Council of the Boy Scouts of America, United Way, the boards of local banks, Riverview Cemetery Association, and board member of Thompson Park, which was donated to the city by his ancestor, the composer Will L. Thompson. He was a fellow of the East Liverpool Rotary Club and a 2004 inductee into the Lou Holtz Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame. He also served as director of the Ohio Manufacturers Association and was a member of an Industry Sector Advisory Committee for the Office of U.S. Trade Representatives and Department of Commerce. 

He was a man of boundless energy, insight, and compassion for others. We will miss his leadership and his good company. Our continued success is a tribute to everything he gave us. 

John Thompson is survived by his wife of 54 years, Margaret “Peggy” Penn Thompson, four children, and five grandchildren.

March 2018


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