“My Plea”

"…The Lord hath anointed me to preach…the opening of the prison to them that are bound" (Isa. 61.1)

     INTRO.: A hymn which uses the picture of being bound in prison to symbolize being bound by sin is "My Plea." The text was written by Clyde V. Thompson, who was born in 1910, most likely in Texas. At the age of seventeen, he was sentenced to death in the electric chair for murder.  The Department of Corrections at the prison in Huntsville, TX, considered him so dangerous that he was kept in silation for thirteen of his 28 years in prison. During that time, he was not allowed to read anything until he was finally given a Bible, which, he said, he angrily started reading "to keep from going crazy" and to prove that it was full of contradictions. Unsuccessful in his attempts to find any contradictions, he started memorizing it and eventually living by it. P. D. Wilmeth baptized him into Christ. This hymn was produced sometime before 1944 because it is found in a hymnbook that is copyrighted that year. The tune was composed by William Washington Slater (1885-1959).

     Slater published in it several of his books with the footnote, "The author of these words is a life-time convict in the Texas prison, but has been converted to Christianity, and is a faithful Christian." In 1946, a young woman named Julia sent him a card after hearing a minister mention him. Correspondence with Julia took place over several years, and she worked for seven years to get influential people to study Thompson’s case. It took five years to get Clyde out of isolation, and afterwards he began teaching Bible classes for the other inmates. In 1955, Julia’s efforts paid off and Thompson was paroled at the age of 45. Upon his release from prison, she met him with a new suit, white shirt, and tie.  Seventeen others were released the same day, but none of them had clothes, so Clyde and Julia vowed to return someday to Huntsville to help.

     After Clyde and Julia were married, the Thompsons traveled for a while seeking to serve Christ wherever they went. This included working with several local churches and serving for a time as Superintendent of a Navajo Children’s Home in New Mexico. The promise to return to Huntsville was fulfilled on July 18, 1970, when the Thompsons established their Prisoners’ Aid Center there. Clyde taught the gospel to both inmates and parolees, and baptized more than 1,500 souls to Christ during that time. Around 1978, they moved to Lubbock, TX, where he became Chaplain of the Lubbock County Jail, and he baptized over 130 souls. Also, he continued producing hymns, such as "No Other Name" with a tune by John D. Bacon in 1975, which is found in the 1980 book Our Garden of Song compiled by Gene C. Finley. Thompson’s death occurred on July 3, 1979, probably in Lubbock.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "My Plea" appeared in the 1944 Gospel Songs and Hymns, the 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion, the 1955 Sacred Praise, the 1958 Gospel Melody Songs, and the 1959 Gospel Service Hymnal, all edited by Will W. Slater; and the 1999 Into Our Hands edited by Leland R. Fleming.
     The song reminds us that all of us at one time or another were prisoners to sin.

I. Stanza 1 talks about the need for understanding
"Could men, like God, but understand, And read a human’s chart,
They’d feel the sting of prison’s band That sears into the heart."
 A. Only God can read the heart and know what is in man: Jn. 2.24-25
 B. Unfortunately, man can read a human’s chart only by seeing what is outward: 1 Sam. 16.7
 C. Of all people, Christians should be most compassionate to those who are physically in prison because we have felt the sting of sin’s prison band: Rom. 6.16-18

II. Stanza 2 talks about the need for consideration
"They’d read the message forged within, The heart that beats alone:
‘Let him be first, who has no sin, To cast a deadly stone."
 A. While man cannot read the heart of others, we must be careful not to judge censoriously: Matt. 7.1-2
 B. We must recognize that many hearts beat alone because they have been separated from God by sin: Isa. 59.1-2
 C. As we consider such people, whatever their crime may be, we should remember the statement of Jesus that "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first": Jn. 8.7

III. Stanza 3 talks about the need for fairness
"To judge me as your fellowman, Impartial, fair, and true,
To know me as I really am, Is all I ask of you."
 A. Obviously, judgments have to be made about our fellowman from time to time: 1 Cor. 6.2
 B. However, we must strive to be impartial, fair, and true in such judgments, and judge righteously: Jn. 7.24
 C. This means that we will try to know others as they really are and consider ourselves lest we also be tempted: Gal. 6.1

IV. Stanza 4 talks about the need for sincerity
"O God, now that I am sincere, I seek my fellow’s hand;
Oh, grand me words to make it clear That men may understand."
 A. "Now that I am sincere" apparently refers to the fact that the author has left a life of crime and has become a follower of Christ, who wants all of us to be sincere: Phil. 1.10
 B. Whether we have escaped the bonds of prison or just the bonds of sin, we should then seek our fellows’ hands to teach others also: 2 Tim. 2.2
 C. It should be our goal to teach and adorn the scriptures in such a way that we can lead others to understand: Eph. 3.3-5

     CONCL.: The chorus expresses the request of the penitent to the Lord.
"I only ask a brand-new start, A life of Christian grace;
Dear God, I’ll surely do my part, And meet Thee face to face."
I may never have been in an actual prison and have the bear that stigma throughout life. However, I have been a prisoner of sin and should be thankful to the Lord for making it possible for me to become free. Therefore, in addition to being the cry of one who was in prison and turned to the Lord, the words of this song should also be "My Plea."


One thought on ““My Plea”

  1. Clyde Vernon Thompson

    Birth: Oct. 5, 1910
    Oklahoma, USA
    Death: Jul. 3, 1979
    Lubbock County
    Texas, USA

    Clyde Thompson is Dead
    Clyde Thompson, 68, died in Methodist Hospital, Lubbock, Texas on Tuesday, July 3. Funeral services were at the Sunset Church in Lubbock, Texas July 5 and interment at Hillsboro July 6. His death was unexpected and sudden. He was hospitalized on Monday night for severe back pains and after a restless night and early morning he died of cardiac arrest at about 10:30 a.m. A post-mortem revealed that he had severe bone malignancy and he could not have lived over six months. This condition was not previously known by anyone and Clyde himself had thanked the Lord for his good health and ability to continue in his vital ministry at his age. He is survived by his wife, Julia, and his daughter, Shirley, both of 5502 17th Place, Lubbock, 79416.

    For the past two years Clyde had worked with the Sunset church in Lubbock as Prison Minister. In 1977 he was appointed as Chaplain at Lubbock’s County Jail where he was instrumental in bringing over 400 to Christ in that two-year period. Clyde’s story of how God used him to reach ex-offenders and those presently incarcerated has been given wide publicity in the brotherhood and through national media. That chapter of his life began in November of 1955 when he himself was released from Texas Department of Corrections after 28 years and two months confinement. His dream then was to return and help those who were coming out into the free world like himself. The specific fulfillment of that dream began in 1970 when he and his family began working with the “Prisoner Reorientation Center” in Huntsville. During that seven years over 1600 were brought to Christ and hundreds more restored to their first love. Clyde’s work was also furthered by his book, EX 83, CLYDE THOMPSON, by his tapes, articles, and booklets. He was often requested to speak at Jail Evangelism workshops, Youth Rallies, College Lectureships, and for TV talk shows. His ministry also caught the attention of Chaplain Ray of Dallas as well as “The Christian Science Monitor” and other papers.

    That long 28-year chapter of Clyde’s life behind bars is a story of God’s grace. It began when Clyde was 17, the youngest prisoner in history at that time to be sentenced to die in the electric chair on a murder charge. He was on death row for three months. Under Governor Ross Sterling his sentence was commuted to life. Before it was all over he became known as “the meanest man in the Texas prison system,” and admitted that a total of 8 men were in their graves because of him. He was involved in an attempted prison break which nearly cost him his life. He spent 51/2 years in an old abandoned morgue behind death row, a cell with a steel door and no light, made just for him. He was not to be trusted anywhere else. It was there that the turning point came. Though he had been baptized into Christ as a youth, and though his own father was a gospel preacher, Clyde denied God and spurned the Bible his own father had given him in prison. But in that morgue he asked for a Bible (“I knew they wouldn’t give me anything else to read”) and he began reading it just to keep his sanity. “But the more I read, the more I realized that it was the truth of God and that I was lost and undone. So, on my knees in tears and prayers I repented.” His changed life became evident. He reached out to others with the message of hope. He wrote poetry, articles for gospel papers, and corresponded with many Christians, among them Julia, who was to become his wife shortly after his release. It’s amazing that he was finally granted full pardon and restoration of citizenship and that his work with ex-offenders became noted by authorities who had earlier given up on Clyde. Please pray for Julia, Shirley, and the hundreds who were touched by Clyde’s work in the gospel. Bob Mize, Gospel Advocate, August 9, 1979, 507-08.

    His parents were William Reese Thompson and Burley Johnson.

    Family links:
    Julia H.P. Thompson (1909 – 1989)



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