Meet Moore People: Thomas Jefferson Conway

When a retired pastor and schoolteacher of 26 years had a birthday party, graduates ran “smackover” to celebrate.

The family of Thomas Jefferson Conway, 76, of Aberdeen, held a special birthday party on Aug. 13, with 12 graduates from the school he founded and 43 other guests.

Thomas and his wife, Nancy Conway, began Solid Rock Baptist Church and School in 1992. Graduates have careers in everything from nursing to piloting airplanes, to teachers, and everything in between. They sold Solid Rock after the Veterans Affairs (VA) diagnosed Thomas with stomach cancer.

“He’s from Smackover, Arkansas, and I’m from here. I met him at the Park-N-Eat, where the Sonic is now. I was sitting on a car, waiting to buy shoes for school. He was in the Army at Fort Bragg. And ‘I jumped smackover the creek’ is something they say in Arkansas,” Nancy said about falling smackover in love and marrying him a year later.

Nancy said her husband’s career began after bible college in Hampton, Virginia. He first pastored at Grace Baptist Church in Roxboro, North Carolina. After more education at Tennessee Temple Bible College, he began a school in Durham, North Carolina. Later, he pastored two churches in Shelby, North Carolina.

The couple has two children, Christopher Conway, 52, and Jennifer Conway, 48. They have a grandson, Greg Conway, who operates Conway Tree Services in Aberdeen.

“He drinks Coke all the time,” Nancy said about the Coca-Cola bottle collection displayed in their dining room. “Today, all he could eat was crackers. Yesterday, he had cake and did really well.”

Thomas rested in bed during the interview.

He was diagnosed on March 15, and the VA gave Thomas 40% disability. In September, the VA begins 100% disability payments.

“When he was nineteen, he was on orders for Germany and got sick, and they found an ulcer hanging outside his stomach,” said Nancy. “Two hours later, he had surgery. It would’ve burst if he got on that plane. The doctors now say that surgery caused the cancer. They took half his stomach and his gall bladder.”

“I believe his life’s motto is to help others and make them happy,” Nancy said as sunbeams shone on the Coca-Cola display, and the iconic jingle, “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” by Harvey Gabor, came to mind as Thomas’ theme song.

Feature photo: Nancy Conway shares a photo of her husband, Thomas Jefferson Conway, on Aug. 15, 2023, at their home in Aberdeen.

~Article and photo by Sandhills Sentinel journalist Stephanie M. Sellers; BS Mass Communications and Journalism, MFA Creative Writing.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email