William D. Vinson, Sr. ’48

William D. “Bill” Vinson ’48 passed away at his home in Davidson on April 7, at the age of 90.

He was born in Rochester, Minnesota, to Lenore Dunlap Vinson and Dr. Porter Paisley Vinson, the youngest of their three children. Raised in Richmond, Virginia, he attended Davidson College and proudly served his country during World War II. Upon returning from the war, he completed his degree at Davidson and then obtained a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

It was during his time in Chapel Hill that he met his beloved wife of 63 years, Mary Godbee. They were married in her hometown of Millen, Georgia, and moved to Asheboro, North Carolina, where he began a 35-year career with General Electric Company. Six years later, he was transferred to GE headquarters in Manhattan, and they moved with their two young children to White Plains, New York. Later transfers took them to Maryland, Ohio and Connecticut. Upon retiring from GE, he and Mary moved to Davidson.

For decades, Bill was known on campus as the most stalwart of Wildcat fans, bouncing over brick sidewalks in a golf cart on his way to the next athletic contest, fundraising event or classroom presentation. Bill “re-enrolled” at the college upon retiring to Davidson, auditing classes (at one point he and grandson Brendan found themselves enrolled in the same class) and attending thousands of athletic events, lectures, concerts, and plays over the course of the past 28 years. More than once Bill held rapt a roomful of 18-year-olds with an eyewitness account of his Navy service as an 18-year-old himself, as an ensign aboard the USS Wasatch in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

Bill was a regular fan in the stands at field hockey and tennis matches, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball games, football, and men’s and women’s soccer. In 2012, Bill was honored by the Southern Conference with its Distinguished Service Award for his abiding dedication to Davidson athletics.

Bill also aspired each year that his Davidson class would reach 100 percent participation to the college’s annual fund; he had the bully pulpit as a longtime class secretary whose chatty submissions to the Davidson Journal are legendary.

Bill’s love for both the college and the town ran deep, with family connections going back a century and a half, said his son William D. Vinson Jr. ’78.

Bill’s great-grandfather, Pinkney Helper, built the Helper Hotel, now the Carolina Inn academic building. His grandfather, the original William D. Vinson, chaired the college mathematics department in the 1890s. And Bill Jr., himself, lived in the ancestral family home on Main Street, when his dad was renting it to the college for student housing in the 1970s.

Bill and his wife Mary renovated the home to its full Victorian splendor and returned to Davidson to live in it in 1987. Later, the Hood House next door came to be occupied by College Relations staff, many of whom Bill had befriended, as, in the words of his obituary “an enthusiastic supporter of all things Davidson over the years.”

“He appreciated that level of connection in life,” said Bill Jr., “and being a generous person, he reflected that love of the college and the town in his activities.”

Bill was a life-long volunteer, serving in Davidson on town committees, as coordinator for the Loaves and Fishes program at DCPC, and as a fundraising volunteer for the Davidson Public Library and WDAV. He was a founding member of WIMPS (“We’re Intent on Making Progress Slowly”), a small group of men who met weekly at the Soda Shop to discuss Town issues. He had a strong appreciation for music, and sang in the Davidson College, DCPC and Gilwood Church choirs. Whenever weather permitted, he could be found working in his yard or playing tennis, even at age 88.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his two sisters, Mary Vinson Bedinger and Portia Vinson Lawson.

Bill is survived by his wife, Mary; daughter, Gay Paisley Vinson, and son-in-law, Clarke Wittstruck, of Asheville, North Carolina; son, William Daniel Vinson Jr., and daughter-in-law, Barbara MacKay Vinson, of Greensboro, North Carolina; grandson, Brendan Vinson Wittstruck ’04, of Austin, Texas; grandson, Nathaniel Vinson Wittstruck ’05 and wife, Mimi Wolff Wittstruck, of Austin, Texas; grandson, William Daniel Vinson III, of Wilmington, North Carolina; granddaughter, Anna Vinson Wittstruck and fiancé, Peter Gottlieb, of Palo Alto, California; grandson, Porter Lee Vinson, of San Diego, California; nephews John and Eric Lawson, and Gary and Mark Godbee; nieces, Jan Hansen, Diane Godbee and Terri Janney; many cousins; and a treasure trove of friends.

The family requests, in lieu of flowers, considering a gift to Davidson College, Davidson College Presbyterian Church, Gilwood Presbyterian Church or a charitable organization of your choice.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m., Sunday, April 17, at Davidson College Presbyterian Church.

Raymer-Kepner Funeral Home is assisting the family. Friends may offer condolences at www.raymerfh.com.