‘Forrest Gump’ actor Bill Roberson dies at 59

Published 4:51 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2017

William Acy “Bill” Roberson Jr., a former Washington resident and character actor known for his roles in “Forrest Gump” and “The Patriot,” died Sunday in Columbia, South Carolina. He was 59. He had recently been diagnosed with cancer.

Dunbar Funeral Home (Devine Street location) in Columbia is in charge of funeral arrangements. A private ceremony will be held with the family.

Roberson was the son of the late Billy Acy Roberson and June Garrett Roberson, of Washington, who survives him. In addition to his mother and his wife, Hi Bedford Roberson, other survivors include two brothers, Troy Roberson and Kelly Roberson, also of Washington. He attended East Carolina University and the University of Alabama.

Those who wish to honor Roberson are asked to make a donation to Pets Inc. in his name.

Roberson portrayed the “fat man on the bench” with actor Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump,” parts of which were filmed in Savannah, Georgia.

Roberson, born Aug. 21, 1958, in Washington, had been living in Columbia, South Carolina, with his wife, Hi, for about 20 years. His other works includes “Radio” (2003), the TV movie “The Water is Wide” (2005-06), “Patch Adams” (1998), “Leatherheads” (2008) and several television shows. Roberson also was a stained-glass artist. Roberson and his wife owned Classical Glass of South Carolina in Columbia.

“I went to high school with him. … We talked off and on, but not that much,” said Jane Boahn, whose family owns Raised in a Barn Farm. “We talked off an on, especially during the last few years. He was such a gentleman. He and Doug Paul, between the two of them — we lost them both this year — they were probably the two most creative geniuses in our class.”

Boahn recalled the Roberson created stained-glass items for Paul’s winery.

“He was a very nice, polite, good guy in high school, very active in drama, obviously. He was just a good, ol’ country boy who had big dreams and went for them,” Boahn said. “He embraced life and went for it in all directions.”

Boahn said a memorial service might be held at Asbury United Methodist Church east of Washington at a later date.


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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