By Michelle Graff
Bill Thompson, the longtime president and CEO of the A.A. Friedman Company, died last week at his home in Augusta, Georgia. An Air Force veteran, Thompson spent his entire career in the jewelry industry with Friedman’s Jewelers.
Augusta, Ga.—William Warren “Bill” Thompson, former CEO of the A.A. Friedman Company who was known for his big heart and his firm principles, died Friday at his home in Augusta, Georgia.

He was 88.

Thompson was born in Augusta but moved to Macon, Georgia as a teenager.

He enrolled in the U.S. Air Force after school, attaining the rank of staff sergeant and marrying his high-school sweetheart, Mildred Ann Payne, during his service.

Thompson’s career in the jewelry industry spanned a total of 52 years, all with the A.A. Friedman Co. (Friedman’s Jewelers).

He started there at the age of 12 sweeping the floors and, after leaving to serve in the Air Force, returned, eventually working his way up to president and CEO.

During his time at Friedman’s, the retailer expanded from six stores to more than 140 stores at its peak.

Randy McCullough, who met Thompson when he got a job as the manager of the Friedman’s store in Augusta, Georgia in 1971, described his longtime friend as a “strategic thinker, a real visionary who was savvy, innovative and very creative.”

He said Thompson generously shared his knowledge, skills and life lessons as president and CEO, which were key to the chain’s growth.

He was good to the people who worked for him and believed in promoting from within, and fair to the chain’s vendors when it came to negotiations.

“The character of the life he lived might be summed up in a few words: he was sincere, he was earnest, he was loyal,” McCullough said. “Nothing was more typical of Bill Thompson than that large-hearted fairness.”

Thompson retired in 1996.

Outside of the jewelry industry, the jeweler and veteran was a longtime member of the Mabel Lodge #255 (Free & Accepted Masons) in Macon, and The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.

He also served with a number of community and professional organizations, loved to travel the world with his wife and play gin rummy with his friends.

Thompson was preceded in death by his parents, Remus and Mattie Lou (Watkins) Thompson; his wife of 61 years, Mildred Ann Thompson; and a son, William James Thompson.

He is survived by another son Alan Thompson (Teresa); three grandchildren, Payne Thompson (Kristen), Rob Thompson (Meghan), and Rowan Thompson; and two great-grandchildren, Millie and Will.

Due to the current restrictions associated with COVID-19, a graveside service for Thompson was live-streamed on the Platt’s Funeral Home Facebook page on Tuesday afternoon.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to be made to the Masonic Home of Georgia, 1417 Nottingham Drive, Macon, GA 31211.

Those interested in leaving a message of condolence online can do so on the funeral home website.

TAGS:   Obituaries
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