About William Riley Roberson, Jr.
William Riley "Bill" Roberson Jr., 90, died Saturday Jan. 3, 2009, at his home. A funeral service was held at the First Presbyterian Church of Washington, officiated by the Rev. Spotswood Graves and the Rev. Darryl Evans.
Roberson 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. Roberson had homes in Washington, NC and Atlantic Beach, NC. From 1986-98, they also resided in Bath, NC.
Roberson was a member and former elder and deacon in the First Presbyterian Church of Washington, N.C. 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, 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 50s. 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 board member 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. On June 6, 2007, the board of trustees 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 No. 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.