Walter “Mac” Thompson was born on September 10th, 1924 in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. While a student at West Virginia State College-Charleston, in early November of 1943, he was drafted and for the first time in his life, came face to face with racial segregation. He was the acting corporal in charge of a group of draftees when they left Pennsylvania, but when their train arrived in Washington, DC, he discovered that all of the African American men were to be sent to one training camp, while the Caucasians would go to another. After taking a series of aptitude tests, Thompson was told he might be able to become a pilot. But because there was only one pre-flight school open to African Americans – and it was extremely competitive -- he did not make the cut. He was sent instead to McClellan Field in Sacramento where he was assigned to the all-black 4909 Aviation Base Unit. Soon after arriving at the base, the unit organized a band, and because he had played trombone in high school Thompson was ultimately assigned to the 4909th Barons of Swing. While playing in the band, he met Jerri Green, they began quickly dating seriously. They were married on the base in December of 1944.
In March of 1945, Thompson’s unit was sent to Guam and Thompson was put into the 464th Aviation Squadron, attached to the 20th Air Force; he was placed in charge of the PX. Thompson returned to the United States in November of 1945 and discharged soon thereafter. He returned to Sacramento and got a job at McClellan as a supply inspector. He left the base in the 1950s to start his own company buying surplus aircraft parts and went on to develop a number of successful enterprises, eventually working as a supervising engineer at Airjet, as executive vice president at a toy company, and finally as a citizen’s assistance officer for the city of Sacramento. He and Jerri raised three children.