Behind the Hymn: Jesus is All the World to Me


Jesus is all the world to me was written by Will Lamartine Thompson.

William Lamartine Thompson was born on November 7, 1847 in East Liverpool, Ohio. He was the youngest of seven children born to Josiah and Sarah Jackman Thompson.

William Lamartine Thompson

Thompson was composing songs by the time he was a teenager, including “My Home on the Old Ohio” and “Gathering Shells from the Seashore.” He had the rare gift of being both a lyricist and a composer.

After graduating from Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio, he entered he New England Conservatory of Music in 1873. He later continued his musical studies in Leipzig, Germany.

Thompson married Elizabeth Johnson and had a son, William Leland Thompson, in 1895.

He eventually opened the W.L. Thompson Music Company in East Liverpool, which became “one of the most prominent and successful such businesses in the United States.” Thompson later founded a music and publishing company in Chicago.

He became known as a great writer and composer of gospel songs and hymns, which also included Lead Me Gently Home, Father and Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling.

Hymnologist Kenneth Osbeck describes Thompson’s personal characteristics: “He was always known as a kind, quiet and unassuming Christian gentleman, greatly loved and

Jesus is all the world to me

admired by his associates.”

Thompson had a great love for history and continued to serve the Lord through service and various generously giving to various civic organizations.

“He was also aware of the fact that small town people had very little exposure to good music, so he loaded a piano on a horse-drawn wagon and went through small Ohio towns giving concerts of his music.”

While on tour in Europe, Thompson fell ill and returned home. He died shortly thereafter on September 20, 1909.

Jesus is all the World to Me first appeared in the 1904 New Century Hymnal.


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