William Riley Roberson, Jr. ’39, of Washington, N.C., died Jan. 3. He was born June 6, 1918, in Washington, N.C., son of the late Rosa Watson Roberson and W.R. Roberson, Sr.
He attended Davidson and graduated from Strayer-Bryant-Stratton College in Baltimore in 1938.
In 1940, he married Frances Dillard Morgan of Washington, N.C., who preceded him in death Nov. 3, 1999.
Surviving are daughter, Robin (Charles Zoph Potts); son, William Riley Roberson III (Olivia Grimes Roberson), 164 Riverwalk Dr., Washington, NC 27889; six grandchildren, Riley Frances Simpson, Charles Zophar Potts, Jr. (Christie Lewis Potts), Reed Mills Potts (Casey Hockaday Potts), Morgan Patterson Potts (Joy Law Potts), William “Will” Riley Roberson IV (Tabitha Domian Roberson), and Lilly Grimes Roberson Jones (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.
Bill 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.
He was a member and former elder and deacon at the First Presbyterian Church in Washington.
He 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, Tex. In 1989, he received the first award for distinguished and meritorious service given by the North Carolina Soft Drink Association. In 1989, he was elected to the Beverage World Hall of Fame.
He had a long and varied career in broadcasting starting as a founder of WRRF Radio in Washington and WRRZ Radio in Clinton. A companion FM station in Washington followed in the 50s. He was a founder and 30-year chairman and chief executive officer of WITN-TV, an NBC affiliate. 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. He was a former member of Broadcast Pioneers and the International Radio and Television Society.
He 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 former member of the Davidson College Board of Visitors and was a former trustee of Atlantic Christian College. He was a former member of the board and president of the North Carolina Art Society and a trustee emeritus of the North Carolina Museum of Art, where, in 1997, he created a fund to establish and perpetuate the “William R. Roberson, Jr. and Frances M. Roberson Endowment for North Carolina Art.”
He was also a member of the Governor’s Business Council on the Arts and Humanities.
Bill was a member and past master of Washington Masonic Lodge #675, a member of Sudan Temple, past president of the Washington Lion’s Club, and a charter member of the Washington Jaycees. He served as a 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. in 1981 and served until Governor Hunt left office in January 1985.