W.R. “Bill” Roberson Jr.

Published 7:44 pm Sunday, January 4, 2009

By Staff
Mr. William Riley “Bill” Roberson, Jr., age 90, a resident of Washington, NC died Saturday January 3, 2009 at his home.
A funeral service will be held 3:00 PM Monday January 5, 2009 at the First Presbyterian Church of Washington officiated by Rev. Spotswood Graves and Rev. Darryl Evans. Burial will follow in Oakdale Cemetery. Charles Zophar Potts, Jr., Reed Mills Potts, Morgan Patterson Potts, William “Will” Riley Roberson IV, Dr. Marcus Hardee Jones and Latham Gray Potts will serve as pallbearers.
Roberson was born June 6, 1918 in Washington, NC, son of the late Rosa Watson Roberson and W.R. Roberson, Sr. He graduated from Washington High School, attended Davidson College, and graduated from Strayer-Bryant-Stratton College in Baltimore in 1938. In 1940, he married Frances Dillard Morgan of Washington, NC, who preceded him in death November 3, 1999. Surviving are daughter Robin (husband Charles Zoph Potts) and son William Riley Roberson III (wife Olivia Grimes Roberson); six grandchildren: Riley Frances Simpson, Charles Zophar Potts, Jr. (wife Christie Lewis Potts), Reed Mills Potts (wife Casey Hockaday Potts), Morgan Patterson Potts (wife Joy Law Potts), William “Will” Riley Roberson IV(wife Tabitha Domian Roberson), Lilly Grimes Roberson Jones (husband Dr. Marcus Hardee Jones); and six great-grandchildren: Raven Cassandra Simpson, Morgan Alexandra Potts, Latham Gray Potts, Skylar Elizabeth Potts, Davis Roberson Jones and Olivia Stanfield Jones. He had one sister, Hannah (Mrs. James Bagwell), and one brother, Joseph Phil Roberson, now deceased, both of Washington. Roberson had homes in Washington and Atlantic Beach. From 1986 to 1998 they also resided in Bath. Also surviving is a very special friend Ms. Peggy Jordan.
Roberson was a member and former Elder and Deacon in the First Presbyterian Church in Washington.
Roberson was chairman and chief executive officer of Roberson’s Beverages, Inc., a family owned business operating several bottling plants in Eastern North Carolina from 1946 until 1982. He was past president of both the North Carolina Soft Drink Association and the National Soft Drink Association. He served 12 years as a member of the Board of Directors of the Dr. Pepper Company, Dallas, Texas. In 1989, he received the first award for Distinguished and Meritorious Service given by the North Carolina Soft Drink Association. In 1989, Roberson was elected to the Beverage World Hall of Fame.
Roberson had a long and varied career in broadcasting starting with being a founder of WRRF Radio in Washington in 1942 and WRRZ Radio in Clinton in 1946. A companion FM station in Washington followed in the 50’s. He was a founder and for thirty years chairman and chief executive officer of WITN-TV, an NBC affiliate which went on the air in 1955. He was a past president of the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters and recipient of the North Carolina Broadcasters’ “Hall of Fame” Award. He served as a member of the NBC-TV Board of Delegates Representing over 200 NBC-TV affiliates with the network. Roberson was a former member of “Broadcast Pioneers” and the “International Radio and Television Society.”
Roberson served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Bank of Washington and its successors for 33 years. He served as a charter member of the Advisory Board of Duke Hospital and as director of ECU Medical Foundation. He was a director and past president of ECU Educational Foundation. He was a former member of the Davidson College Board of Visitors and was a former trustee of Atlantic Christian College. In 1981, Roberson was named “The Tar Heel of the Week” by the News and Observer. Roberson was a founding partner of Washington Square Mall and the Smallwood Subdivision.
Roberson was a former member of the board and president of the North Carolina Art Society. He was a trustee of the North Carolina Museum of Art. In 1997, Roberson created a fund at the North Carolina Museum of Art to establish and perpetuate the “William R. Roberson Jr., and Frances M. Roberson Endowment for North Carolina Art.” Proceeds from this endowment are to be used to acquire works of art by North Carolina artists for the museum. In addition to this the Robersons contributed a substantial number of paintings from their personal collection to the museum. The board of trustees on June 6, 2007 voted unanimously to make Roberson a Trustee Emeritus. Roberson was a member of the Governor’s Business Council on the Arts and Humanities.
Roberson was a member and past Master of Washington Masonic Lodge #675 and a member of Sudan Temple. He was past president of the Washington Lion’s Club and a charter member of the Washington Jaycees.
Roberson was a past president and member of both the Washington Yacht and Country Club and the Coral Bay Club. He was a member of the Dunes Club and the Cardinal Club. He was a member of the Down East Seniors in Washington.
Roberson served as Representative in North Carolina General Assembly from 1966 until 1974. He introduced or co-introduced legislation which created Goose Creek State Park, the Swan Quarter-Ocracoke Ferry, Beaufort County Community College which at that time was a branch of Pitt County Technical Institute, and the Coastal Area Management Act. He was active in passing legislation that made possible East Carolina University and the ECU School of Medicine. He was appointed Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Transportation by Governor James B. Hunt, Jr. on July 20, 1981 and served until Governor Hunt went out of office in January 1985.
The family will receive friends 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM Sunday January 4, 2009 at Paul Funeral Home of Washington and at other times at the homes of Mr. Roberson’s children Riley and Olivia Roberson located at 164 River Walk Drive, Washington or Robin and Zoph Potts located at 107 S. Reed Drive, Washington.
In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the charity of one’s choice.
Mr. Roberson’s online guestbook may be signed by visiting www.paulfuneralhome.com.
Paul Funeral Home of Washington is serving the Roberson family.
Paid obituary