Wilson, North Carolina

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City of Wilson
City of Wilson is located in North Carolina
City of Wilson
City of Wilson
Location within the state of North Carolina
Coordinates: Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Country United States
State North Carolina
County Wilson
 • Total 23.4 sq mi (60.7 km2)
 • Land 23.3 sq mi (60.3 km2)
 • Water 0.2 sq mi (0.4 km2)
Elevation 108 ft (33 m)
Population (2013)
 • Total 48,993
 • Density 1,906.9/sq mi (736.3/km2)
Time zone Eastern Time Zone (USA/Canada) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) -4 (UTC-4)
Zip Code 27893/27896/27894/27895
Area code(s) 252
FIPS code 37-74540[1]
GNIS feature ID 1023273[2]
Website http://www.wilsonnc.org
Wilson City Hall

Wilson is a city in and the county seat of Wilson County, North Carolina, United States.[3] Situated in the heart of eastern North Carolina, around 40 miles east of the capital city of Raleigh, it lies at the interchange of Interstate 95 and U.S. Route 264 in the state's Coastal Plain region. Wilson had a population of 49,610 in 2012, according to the Census Bureau.[4]

Wilson is now ranked 18th in size among North Carolina’s 500-plus municipalities. The city has added more than 40 percent in population since 1990, primarily due to a construction of new subdivisions and an influx of new residents. This has attracted new retail and shopping construction, primarily in the northwestern parts of the city. Wilson is a diverse community with African-Americans making up 48% of the population and White 43%; the remaining 9% includes many nationalities, including Latinos, Vietnamese, Chinese and other groups. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that nearly 5,000 county residents (7.5 percent) were foreign-born. Of those, nearly 3,000 people, or 62 percent, had entered the U.S. since 2000.[4]

Once widely known as "The World’s Greatest Tobacco Market", Wilson enjoys a diverse economy today, with a healthy mix of agriculture, manufacturing, commercial, and service businesses.


Wilson is located at Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found. (35.731093, -77.923509).[5]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 23.4 square miles (61 km2), of which, 23.3 square miles (60 km2) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) of it (0.64%) is water.

Wilson is located at the intersection of Interstate 95 and US 264; approximately 45 minutes east of Raleigh, the state capital. It also is at the northern terminus of Interstate 795, which provides a route to Interstate 40 and the port city of Wilmington, North Carolina.


The history of the city of Wilson dates back to a community that formed around Toisnot Primitive Baptist Church, built in the early 1800s. The community was originally called Toisnot. In 1836, the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad Co. began building a Wilmington-to-Weldon line. The railline reached the community in 1839, and by 1840 Toisnot had both north-and-south service. That led to the growth of the community.

The North Carolina General Assembly chartered the town of Wilson with the final ratification of the bill on Jan. 29, 1849. It was named for Louis Dicken Wilson (1789–1847), a North Carolina politician and general in the United States Army. He served in the General Assembly of North Carolina and the North Carolina Senate in various terms between 1814 and 1846. He died in 1847 of yellow fever, contracted while fighting in the Mexican–American War.

General Joshua Barnes, John W. Farmer, James D. Barnes, Jonathan D. Rountree and Arthur Farmer were named as the first town commissioners.[6]

Wilson currently operates under a City Council-City Manager form of government. The City Council includes seven members who are elected by districts and a mayor who is elected at large. All terms are four years. The City Council makes policy and budget decisions, which are enacted by the city manager, whom they appoint, and the staff.

C. Bruce Rose is the longest-serving mayor, having served continuously since 1992. Prior to that, he was a city firefighter for 30 years and fire chief for seven years.[7]

The Gen. Joshua Barnes House, Branch Banking, Broad-Kenan Streets Historic District, Cherry Hotel, Davis-Whitehead-Harriss House, East Wilson Historic District, Old Wilson Historic District, Joseph John Pender House, Moses Rountree House, Upper Town Creek Rural Historic District, West Nash Street Historic District, Olzie Whitehead Williams House, Wilson Central Business-Tobacco Warehouse Historic District, Wilson County Courthouse, and Woodard Family Rural Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[8]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 960
1870 1,036 7.9%
1880 1,475 42.4%
1890 2,126 44.1%
1900 3,525 65.8%
1910 6,717 90.6%
1920 10,612 58.0%
1930 12,613 18.9%
1940 19,234 52.5%
1950 23,010 19.6%
1960 28,753 25.0%
1970 29,347 2.1%
1980 34,424 17.3%
1990 36,930 7.3%
2000 44,405 20.2%
2010 49,167 10.7%
Est. 2014 49,395 [9] 0.5%
U.S. Decennial Census[10]

As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 44,405 people, 17,296 households, and 11,328 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,906.9 people per square mile (736.1/km²). There were 18,660 housing units at an average density of 801.3 per square mile (309.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 46.67% White, 47.53% African American, 0.31% Native American, 0.58% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 3.89% from other races, and 1.01% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7.29% of the population.

There were 17,296 households out of which 31.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.0% were married couples living together, 19.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.5% were non-families. 29.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 3.06.

In the city the population was spread out with 26.0% under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 28.9% from 25 to 44, 21.8% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 88.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $31,169, and the median income for a family was $41,041. Males had a median income of $30,682 versus $22,363 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,813. About 16.5% of families and 21.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.5% of those under the age of 18 and 20.4% ages 65 or older.

United States census[1] data from 2012 report a population of 49,610 people and 19,413 households in the city. The population density was 1,710 inhabitants per square mile. There were 21,870 housing units, and the percentage of homeownership was 49.5%. The racial makeup of the city was 47.9% African American, 42.9% White, 0.3% Native American, 1.2% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, and 1.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.4% of the population. The percentage of homes where another language than English was the primary language was 10.4%.

The median income for a household in the city from 2008-2012 was $36,469. About 26% of the population were below the poverty line.



The city has built its own Government-access television (GATV) municipal cable TV provider known as Greenlight which provides cable TV, digital phone and internet to its residents.[11] Greenlight was formed in 2008 to provide an independent, locally owned and operated option for television, telephone and Internet broadband connectivity for Wilson residents. Since then, Greenlight has grown to provide its services to more than 6,000 residential customers and businesses and the Wilson County School System. In addition, Greenlight provides free wireless Internet access throughout the downtown Wilson area. Wilson was the first city in North Carolina to offer gigabit Internet connectivity service to its residents in 2013. That service allows Internet users to upload or download data at speeds up to one billion bits per second.[12]


Wilson is served by two airports: Wilson Industrial Airport and Rocky Mount-Wilson Airport (RWI), and by the Wilson Amtrak Station.

The following highways travel through Wilson: I-95, I-795, U.S. 301, U.S. Route 264, U.S. 117, N.C. 42, and N.C. 58. Five-lane roads include Hines Street, Tarboro Street, and Ward Boulevard.

The city has a bus system.


Wilson Medical Center is a 330-bed hospital.


Wilson is the birthplace of Branch Banking and Trust Corporation (BB&T), which is among the nation's top financial-holding companies with $182 billion in assets, as of spring 2014.[13] Although headquartered now in Winston-Salem, N.C., BB&T remains among Wilson County’s top employers with around 2,000 people working in various financial services.

Bridgestone Americas operates a plant in Wilson that employs more than 1,800 people who make radial tires for cars and light trucks. Bridgestone recently completed a 6-year, $250 million renovation of the plant, which was retooled to make run-flat passenger car tires that are sold in both the USA and Japan. It recently marked 1 million man-hours without a losttime accident.[14]

Other large employers include Wilson County Schools; Wilson Medical Center; Smithfield Packing Co., pork products; UTC Aerospace Systems (formerly Kidde Aerospace and Defense before UTC's acquisition), aircraft fire protection systems; Sandoz, generic prescription drugs; Merck Manufacturing Division, pharmaceutical drugs; and Ardagh Group, glass containers.

Largest employers

According to the City's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[15] the top employers in the city are:

# Employer Number of
1 BB&T 2,000
2 Wilson County Schools 1,800
3 Bridgestone 1,746
4 Wilson Medical Center 1,340
5 S. T. Wooten 980
6 City of Wilson 735
7 Wilson County 673
8 Smithfield Packing Company 640
9 Kidde Aerospace 600


Wilson is home to the Wilson Tobs of the Coastal Plain League, a collegiate summer baseball league. The Tobs play at Fleming Stadium in Wilson. The Tobs began play for the league's inaugural 1997 season.


Wilson's chief source of news is the Wilson Times, established in 1896.


Public schools

Elementary Schools (K-5)

  • Wells
  • Margaret Hearne
  • Vick, New Hope
  • Vinson-Bynum
  • B.O. Barnes
  • Winstead
  • Elm City
  • Stantonsburg
  • Lee Woodard
  • Lucama
  • Rock Ridge
  • Gardners
  • Jones

Middle Schools

  • C H Darden
  • Forest Hills
  • Toisnot
  • Elm City
  • Speight
  • Springfield

High Schools

Alternative School

  • Daniels Learning Center (6-8).[16]


Youth Enrichment Program of Wilson, Inc. operates Sallie B. Howard School for the Arts and Education.


The Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf is operated by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Office of Education Services.


Wilson is home to several private schools:

  • Community Christian School (Daycare - Pre-K -12)
  • Garnett Christian Academy
  • Wilson Christian Academy (Daycare - Pre-K -12)
  • Greenfield School (Pre-K-12) (non-sectarian)
  • Charis Prep (Christian, 9-12)


Notable people

  • Red Barrett (February 14, 1915 – July 28, 1990) was a major league baseball pitcher who played eleven total career seasons in the National League. He played for the Cincinnati Reds, Boston Braves and St. Louis Cardinals. Born in Santa Barbara, California, he lived in Wilson, North Carolina in his later years and died there at age 75.
  • Glenn Bass (born April 12, 1939 in Wilson, North Carolina) is a former collegiate and professional American football player.
  • Hunter Bell is an author and actor. Bell was born in Alabama, he was reared in Wilson, North Carolina until the seventh grade.
  • George Kenneth Butterfield, Jr. (born April 27, 1947) is the U.S. Representative for North Carolina's 1st congressional district, serving since 2004. He is a member of the Democratic Party. Butterfield was born and grew up in a prominent black family in Wilson; both of his parents had white as well as black ancestors. Butterfield's father immigrated to the United States from Bermuda.
  • Jean Farmer-Butterfield is a Democratic member of the North Carolina General Assembly, representing the state's twenty-fourth House district since 2003. She was born and grew up in Wilson.
  • Freddie Bynum (born March 15, 1980 in Wilson, North Carolina) is a shortstop playing for the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. He previously played for the Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics, and Baltimore Orioles in the United States MLB.
  • Charles Lee Coon (1868–1927) was a teacher, school administrator, child labor reformer, and advocate for African-American education. Born near Lincolnton, North Carolina, he was superintendent of Salisbury, North Carolina schools; African-American normal schools in the state before integration; and Wilson County, North Carolina schools.
  • Ben Flowers (June 15, 1927 (in Wilson, North Carolina) – February 18, 2009) grew up in Wilson before joining major league baseball. He played for four different teams between 1951 and 1956.
  • Ava Lavinia Gardner (December 24, 1922 – January 25, 1990) was an American actress. Gardner was born and grew up in the big farming community of Grabtown, Johnston County, North Carolina. She was signed to a contract by MGM Studios in 1941 and became one of Hollywood's leading actresses, considered one of the most beautiful women of her day. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in Mogambo (1953).
  • James B. Hunt, Jr. (born 1937), grew up in Wilson and became a politician. He was a NC governor who served a record four terms. In 1984, he challenged Jesse Helms in a race for the U.S. Senate that was the most expensive Senate campaign up to that time.
  • Martha Hunt (born April 27, 1989 in Wilson, North Carolina) is an American fashion model, most notably a Victoria's Secret Angel.
  • Izel Jenkins (born May 27, 1964 in Wilson, North Carolina) is a former professional American football defensive back in the National Football League for the Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, and New York Giants during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
  • Walter Beaman Jones, Jr.(born February 10, 1943, in Farmville, North Carolina) is the U.S. Representative for North Carolina's 3rd congressional district, serving since 1995, and a member of the Republican Party. He attended and graduated from Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College) in Wilson.
  • Thomas S. Kenan (February 12, 1838 – December 23, 1911) was a Confederate soldier, and later a politician, elected to the State legislature, and serving from 1865 to 1867. Later that year he ran for Congress and lost. He moved to Wilson, where he was elected as mayor of the city. Later he was elected as North Carolina Attorney General, serving from 1877 to 1885.
  • Ike Lassiter (born November 15, 1940 in Wilson, North Carolina) is a former American college and professional football defensive lineman.
  • Walt McKeel (born January 17, 1972 in Wilson) is a former professional baseball player. He played parts of three seasons in Major League Baseball, between 1996 and 2002, for the Boston Red Sox (1996–1997) and Colorado Rockies (2002), primarily as a catcher.
  • Miguel A. Núñez, Jr. (born August 11, 1964) is an American actor. He is best known for his supporting roles in The Return of the Living Dead and Life, and a leading role in Juwanna Mann. Born in New York City and of Dominican descent, he was taken South to Wilson, where he was raised by his grandparents in Wilson.
  • The O'Kaysions are an American pop / blue-eyed soul group originally from Wilson. Today, they are known as Beach Music artists. The group first formed under the name The Kays in 1959,[1] and scored a Top 10 hit in the U.S. in 1968 with the tune "(I'm A) Girl Watcher" (#5 Pop, #6 R&B).[2]
  • Vance Page (September 15, 1905 in Elm City, North Carolina – July 14, 1951 in Wilson, North Carolina), was a professional baseball player who played pitcher in the Major Leagues from 1938 to 1941. He played for the Chicago Cubs. He lived in Wilson in his final years.
  • Stan Partenheimer [Party] (October 21, 1922 – January 28, 1989) was a pitcher in Major League Baseball who played for the Boston Red Sox (1944) and St. Louis Cardinals (1945). Partenheimer retired to Wilson, where he died at the age of 66.
  • Julius Peppers (January 18, 1980) nicknamed "The Freak Of Nature," is an American football outside linebacker for the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League (NFL). He was born in Wilson and raised in nearby Bailey. He played college football for the University of North Carolina, and was recognized as an All-American. He has also played professionally for the Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears.
  • Randy Renfrow (born January 28, 1958 in Wilson, North Carolina) is a former NASCAR driver. He raced many years in the Craftsman Truck Series before retiring.
  • Corey Thomas (born June 6, 1975 in Wilson, North Carolina) is a former professional American football wide receiver who played in one game for the Detroit Lions in 1998.
  • George L. Wainwright, Jr. (born December 10, 1943) is an American judge, who recently retired as an associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Born in Wilson County, Wainwright worked in agribusiness and real estate in Wilson, North Carolina, for many years.
  • Gregory Walcott- born Bernard Mattox in Wendell, North Carolina, Walcott was raised in Wilson. While serving in the Army, he appeared as a drill instructor in the film Battle Cry, and later had other movie roles as a military man. He also had many roles in television series, including such popular Westerns as Bonanza.
  • John Webb (September 18, 1926 – September 18, 2008) was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court (1986–1998). Prior to serving on North Carolina's highest court, Justice Webb had been a Superior Court (trial) judge and a judge of the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Webb was born in Nash County, North Carolina but lived most of his life in Wilson; one of his law partners was future Governor Jim Hunt.
  • Harry F. Weyher Jr. (August 19, 1921 – March 27, 2002) was an American lawyer and president of the Pioneer Fund from 1958 to 2002. He was born and grew up in Wilson.
  • Frederick Augustus Woodard (12 February 1854 – 8 May 1915) was a Democratic U.S. congressman from North Carolina between 1893 and 1897. Born near Wilson, Woodard attended private schools in the county and clerked under Richmond Mumford Pearson, chief justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina. He was admitted to the bar in 1873 and practiced law in his hometown of Wilson until his death.


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  5. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. http://www.wilsonnc.org/departments/developmentservices/historicpreservation/wilsonshistory/formationofthetown/
  7. http://www.wilsonnc.org/government/electedofficials/
  8. Staff (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  11. "Greenlight". Retrieved 2012-07-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Greenlight: CITY OF WILSON TO OFFER GIGABIT INTERNET SERVICE". greenlightnc.com.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "BB&T Bank - Personal Banking, Small Business Banking, Mortgages, Invest". bbt.com.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Latest News from Bridgestone Americas". Bridgestone Americas, Inc.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. City of Wilson 2011 CAFR
  16. "Wilson County School District". Wilson County. Retrieved 2011-02-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links