William Ray Hampton, known to many as 'Pastor Hampton', 'PrH', or 'Bill', was many things to many people - son, brother, Principal, Chaplain, Pastor, swim-instructor, YM CA Director, organist, mission fundraiser, mentor, and friend - all of it done in the service of the Lord.
Born October 8, 1935 to Hazel and Merle Hampton he grew up in Inglewood, CA. He was introduced to the Lutheran Church when his mother enrolled him at Chapel of Peace Lutheran School because the local public schools did not teach phonics at the time. From there he attended- Inglewood High School ('53) where he learned to play the organ. After high school he-attended -USC, graduating with a BS in Education ('57). While at USC he earned his keep by playing the organ at the Culver City Roller Rink, playing the catchy skate-tunes of the era while simultaneously studying for his classes. This lifelong Trojan then went on to Pacific Lutheran Seminary at Berkeley ('61). While at seminary he
attended Naval Officer-Candidate School and was commissioned an Ensign in the Chaplain Corps, USNR in 1959. He was ordained a Lutheran Pastor in 1961 (ALC), taking his first call as the assistant-pastor/principal at First Lutheran School, Pomona (1961-67). He was then called to active duty to serve as a Chaplain, first assigned to the 3rd Bn/261h Marines, with duty in Viet Nam (siege of Khe Sahn, and in Quang Tri province), and then as the Chaplain for the Officer Candidate School, Newport, RI (1967-70). At the completion of his active duty he returned to Southern California as a graduate student at Cal Poly, Pomona (1970- 72).
In 1970 he became the Interim Pastor at Hope Luther n Church, Mojave. In the 1980's he added two more preaching stations to his Sunday schedule with stops in Boron and Lake Los Angeles d riving his ubiquitous Lincoln Continental or the "other" black car every Sunday morning, making the 225 mile round-trip for over forty years. Leading services in the liturgical tradition, PrH rarely missed a Sunday in those 44 years of serving his flock in the desert, conducting his last service on 19 October, 2014.
Pastor Hampton became the founding Principal of Lutheran High School in La Verne in 1972. He personally recruited the freshman and sophomore classes that began with the school in the fall of 1973. Pastor Hampton was instrumental in developing the curriculum that included the Naval Junior Officer Reserve Training Corp program in an addition to establishing the swimming and lifesaving class as a requirement for all students. Under his direction, in the fall of 1976, the new campus was constructed and the school moved to its permanent home in La Verne. In 1984 he oversaw the building of the new gymnasium. Throughout his years at Lutheran High School he provided strong and caring direction to the many graduates and teachers.
In 1985 he became the General Director of the Pomona Valley YMCA. Through his steady leadership the YMCA grew and once again became an integral part of youth development in the valley through the programs of the Pomona YMCA. While serving as the General Director he also developed the Boy's and Girl's Gym Swim Club and the Young Men's Fitness Club. Through his community fund raising efforts he was able to provide sponsored memberships to many of the local youth that enabled them to participate in the aquatics and youth programs of the YMCA. Pastor Hampton retired from the YMCA in 1998 but was far from being retired ............
In "retirement," Pastor continued to make his trips to the desert for church services each Sunday. He also began to travel extensively for mission trips and church conferences. He continued in his role as teacher, mentor, tutor, pastor and friend. He volunteered his time to teach Greek and Latin (and the organ) to students at a local Lutheran School and to those who made the Sunday trip with him to the desert. His passion for music and playing the organ continued through his invitations to friends to join him at his home for organ concerts followed by dessert. He played and recorded the hymns for his weekly church services on his Johannus organ. He also volunteered as chaplain for the local Civil Air Patrol.
Affectionately known as the "desert father," Pr. Hampton was a tireless evangelist for the Society of the Holy Trinity. Hardly a California chapter retreat took place without his bringing one or more guests-sometimes a Lutheran pastor he sensed might be blessed by the Society, often an ecumenical visitor. His dry sense of humor and his wisdom were a blessing to the California chapter.
Pastor organized financial support for a number of Lutheran ministries in Indonesia that provided lifesaving medical care, scholarships, and pastoral care to needy Indonesian children and their families, an effort that culminated in the establishment of an official presence of the St. Louis-based Luther n Church- Missouri Synod in Indonesia.
In another part of the world, Pastor Hampton led the effort to provide the
headquarters/cathedral of the Lutheran Church in Kenya with a first class organ, hymnals for the congregation, and vestments for the pastors, so that they might be a beacon of liturgical worship in Africa.
He served 30 years of commissioned service in the USNR, retiring in 1989 with the rank of Navy Captain. His reserve duty was usually completed on Wednesday afternoons, putting on his Khakis and driving to El Toro MCAS or Camp Pendleton to visit "his" Marines while also taking along one of his protégé’s - a few of who ended up joining the U.S. Marine Corps or Navy. Pastor Hampton's personal decorations include a Bronze Star (w/ Valor) and a Purple Heart.
Throughout his life and career, Pastor Hampton was a tireless worker for youth and the church. He was respected by many throughout his life as a teacher, administrator, chaplain, Pastor, organist and could talk church history and theology with the brightest theologians in the country. He was an accomplished organist, having studied under Richard Purvis at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco while attending seminary. One of his other passions was teaching swimming. As a result of a near drowning experience as a youth, Pastor Hampton devoted his adult life teaching children to swim through the Boy Scout Swimming and Lifesaving Merit Badge program, the YMCA Aquatics program and at Lutheran High School, La Verne.
As word of his call to h is eternal home in Christ began to spread many have begun to share the impact he had on their lives, from the trenches and hill tops of Khe Sahn, to Luther n High School, to the YMCA, to the Society of the Holy Trinity, to mission work in Indonesia and Kenya to the churches of Hope and Resurrection Lutheran that he called home for so many years. The lives that he touched through his teaching, preaching, mentoring and serving are beyond comprehension and description .
Deborah Martinez Luther was once asked what he would do if he knew the world would end tomorrow, he said, " he would plant a tree today." In other words, we do not know the hour or the time of our Lord's coming, therefore we are to always be ready. PrH lived that way every day, that is, with a joyful expectation that, "your redemption is drawing near" (Luke 2 1:28). One who spent his life as a "9.86" is now a "10." "Thanks be to God!"
He was preceded in death by his parents, Merle and Hazel. He is survived by h is sister Judy Proffitt (Tom), nieces Christina Nance (Aaron, Ashley, and Kiley) and Kathy Brier (Joe).
12 November 2014