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Interview with Walker Taylor III, June 12, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Walker Taylor III, June 12, 2008
June 12, 2008
Walker Taylor III's family has lived in Wilmington for several generations, and owns the oldest insurance firm in North Carolina. The interview discusses the family's public history and Mr. Walker Taylor III's own involvement and experiences in the community.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Taylor III, Walker Interviewer: Jones, Carroll Date of Interview: 6/12/2008 Series: SENC Notables Length 60 minutes

Jones: I'm Carroll Jones with Chris Malpass with the Randall Library Special Collections Oral History Project. And we're in the Helen Hagen Room Special Collections. With us today is Mr. Walker Taylor III, a Wilmington native of several generations whose members have been involved in local events and history, and own the oldest insurance firm in Southeastern North Carolina. Is that correct?

Taylor: In all of North Carolina.

Jones: In all of North Carolina.

Taylor: All of North Carolina.

Jones: All of North Carolina.

Taylor: In North Carolina.

Jones: All right. We got that part.

Taylor: Yes ma'am.

Jones: And good afternoon, Mr. Taylor, and thanks for coming.

Taylor: Thank you. Yes, ma'am.

Jones: Tell us a little bit about your background here in Wilmington, what it was like, any changes, and was it a given that you would go into the family business or was that something that you wanted to do. Just pick it. Start wherever you want.

Taylor: Well, I was born December 14, 1924 which was what, 83 years ago, something like that, born and raised at 711 Dock Street. The house is still there and I have warm memories of that part of town. I go by there frequently. I wish I could afford to buy the house just for sentimental reasons. My early recollection is my oldest sister, Frances [ph?], lovely person who just called me a second ago, did not like having a younger brother, so one time she put me in the fireplace, and for some reason I think ________________.

Jones: Drastic measure.

Taylor: But I just remember that. I went to Tileston School right around the corner where my father went, my mother went and everybody in that part of town went. I have wonderful memories of Tileston School. And my children actually went to Tileston School before it was taken over by St. Mary's Catholic Church. Wonderful principal there, Mr. George Tally [ph?], good friend of mine, goes to Chestnut Street Presbyterian Church. Wonderful friend of mine, George Tally, did so much for the young children. From there we moved out to Forest Hills in 1932 when I was, what, about six, seven or eight years old, something like that. My father built a house not too far from you, Carroll, you live in Forest Hills. Do you live on-- I can't remember that...

Jones: No, Wilbur's family on-- at 102 Colonial.

Taylor: Colonial, yes, I know, right around the corner. And we moved there about the time Wilbur's family was over-- was Wilbur's family with the father with Coastline?

Jones: No, no. He was actually-- became President of Carolina Savings and Loan.

Taylor: Oh, that's-- certainly, ________ Jones?

Jones: Yes, and he was with Lloyd Moore and Gene Fonvielle was Moore-- they built Forest Hills.

Taylor: Oh, yeah, I know they did.

Jones: So Papa Jones was involved in all kinds of things.

Taylor: Oh, I remember Mr. ________ Jones, and it's funny I didn't connect up Wilbur and Mr. ________ Jones, sure I knew all those people. Their office was on Princess Street between Front and 2nd, and my father's office, or grandfather's office who started the insurance agency back in the 19th Century, his office as at 105 North Front Street, a part at that time of the People's Savings Bank which was later acquired by Wachovia. Then later on my grandfather died in 1937, my father came into the business with his father. He graduated from Princeton University in 1919, came to work for his father after serving in World War I. And he had the office there on Front Street then subsequently moved down near Water Street, #10 Princess Street, I think it was. That's when I came to work in 1948 after graduating from Davidson College. I was in the Merchant Marine for three years in World War II and then went in the Navy later on. But any rate, so I came to work for my father in 1948. He had gone to work for his father in, what, 1919 and my children came to work for me, although I now work for them, about 10-15 years ago, something like that.

Jones: Amazing.

Taylor: At any rate I worked in the insurance agency for a couple of years and I was a single man, and bored, and there wasn't anything happening in this sleepy town, and when the Korean War came along I signed up for the Navy because I wanted...

Jones: Really?

Taylor: Because I was an adventuresome, you know, young man and nothing to do.

Jones: And you were unencumbered.

Taylor: Unencumbered, and I joined the Navy, and went to Korea and had an exciting time in North Korea. A few battle instances and things like that that kind of stand out in my mind. I actually met several Wilmington, North Carolina boys in North Korea, Henry Boss [ph?], Franklin Elmore [ph?], Jimmy Price [ph?] who is prominent here at the University, of course, and a number of other naval officers. We met in the reserve prior to going active duty. They all laughed when I signed up. They said I was crazy, but they were drafted a week or two after I went on in. At any rate, served in the Navy for about three years...

Jones: Were you ever, were you on-- you were ashore?

Taylor: I was on a ship. I was on a destroyer, the USS Sperry DD-697.

Jones: The Berry?

Taylor: Sperry. Charles S. Sperry. Charles S. Sperry's job was shore bombardment. That is we came in close to shore and supported the Marines who were fighting the Chinese and the North Koreans at the time, and had many a narrow escape from being shot at by shore bombardments and aircraft and things like that, but I never got hit, never got injured. The ship got hit several times, but I was fortunate about that. And anyway, when the war was over, the Korean War was over I came back to Wilmington, resumed my career in my father's property and casualty insurance agency spending a lot of time on maritime insurance. That was kind of an interesting line because I had graduated from the United States Merchant Marine Academy so I was a seaman.

Jones: Oh, you did?

Taylor: Yes I did.

Jones: When was that?

Taylor: I graduated in 1944. I had a bachelor's degree in nautical science. I thought I really knew the whole world at that time. I always enjoyed going to sea. I got a mate's license, equipped me and entitled me to sail on ships of any size in any ocean as it said. So any rate so I had a natural interest in maritime affairs. And so we wrote a lot of ocean cargo insurance, tugboats and barges and other things.

Jones: Well, this would be the place to do it wouldn't it?

Taylor: It certainly was then. Now the waterfront has changed dramatically in the last decade or so. But any case, so I enjoyed that. And got married in 1956, married a beautiful girl that I met at the YMCA in the eye of a hurricane. That's the real truth. She were Ethel Aver [ph?], her maiden name was. Ethel was working for the Red Cross and I was a volunteer disaster chairman. And in 1955 this town suffered two hurricanes back to back.

Jones: Yes it did, Hazel.

Taylor: Well, it was actually Hazel in '54, but I went to work there in the Red Cross in '55.

Jones: Excuse me. You met your wife at the Y?

Taylor: At the Red Cross.

Jones: At the Red Cross, at Red Cross, okay.

Taylor: And Connie and Diane were in August and two within a week. And so I spent a lot of time at the Red Cross supervising or giving some direction to relief services and I saw this pretty young lady in a Red Cross uniform. And at any rate, we met and happily married with four children and nine grandchildren. And then along about-- am I doing what you want me to do?

Jones: Yes you are. Just keep going.

Taylor: Along about 1960s when the country was in an uproar. Martin Luther King assassinated, Robert Kennedy assassinated, Vietnam war, the whole country was in an uproar. I, along with Bishop Thomas Wright who was my mentor in the Episcopal Church, decided to leave the insurance agency business and go to war full time for the Episcopal Church at our national headquarters in New York, which I did.

Jones: Really? And what year was this, the '60s?

Taylor: I was-- I went to work for the presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in New York City in 1965 and stayed there as his aide. I was one of his aides in the Domestic/Foreign Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church for five years.

Jones: Now this was for the Episcopal and you worked in New York.

Taylor: Yes ma'am, Protestant Episcopal Church. And my work was in overseas missions, principally in Africa, South America, South Pacific. I spent a lot of time, actually, in the South Pacific.

Jones: Now, this was after you married?

Taylor: Yes, ma'am. My patient wife had four young children and I was gallivanting around the world believing I could save the world, of course, _________, you know.

Jones: Of course, at that age you do.

Taylor: And because I felt that the church had a lot to add to civilizing factors at that time. And then later on was elected to the national board so I was up there, gosh, for another ten years, commuting pretty much from Wilmington every week. I'd leave here on a Sunday. I remember the round trip fare to New York was $88 dollars, $44 dollars each way.

Jones: And who was the airline, Piedmont?

Taylor: Piedmont, that's right. Piedmont and we could fly from Wilmington to New Britton to Norfolk to LaGuardia. Later on Ethel and I, the separation became difficult for us both so we moved bag and baggage to Connecticut and lived in New Canaan, Connecticut, beautiful idyllic New England house in that little village of New Canaan which is 45 miles north of mid-town New York. Lived there for two or three years and then that term of office, tour of duty expired, partly because I was going broke because I didn't, you know, my income was virtually gone, although the church paid my-- paid me a salary it wasn't even enough hardly to pay the rent as I remember. And so I came on back. When was that? Probably around 1976, I think. So I was there essentially from '65 to '76 more or less. Came back here and been back in the insurance agency since then.

Jones: Who was running it while you were gone?

Taylor: Well, I-- actually I came back once a month to do a perfunctory oversight, but I had a wonderful man with me named John Metz [ph?], Captain J. Van B Metz, Jr. [ph?].

Jones: Oh, I know him.

Taylor: Metz came into the agency. Wilbur would know him.

Jones: Oh, he did, Johnnie Metz was...

Taylor: Jonnie Metz. Jonnie Metz was a saint and he looked after affairs. And of course I paid him a handsome amount to do that, but regardless of that, beyond that he was such a faithful, wonderful friend and businessman. So he looked after the business, essentially. Then I came back in '76, or whatever that date was, Carroll, and kind of took it over. My father died in 19, 19, gosh I don't know exactly, it was '72 I believe. Let's see '60-- I've got to count-- I've forgotten.

Jones: That's all right.

Taylor: But any rate I took over my father, which I always called my father and my grandfather's business, and with Johnny Metz's assistance, and we've been going strong ever since then. You asked about the changes in Wilmington. Everybody, of course, knows I would say in the last ten years the profound changes were two, I think. One was the introduction of I40 and the second was the establishment of UNCW which is kind of a city within the city.

Jones: Yeah.

Taylor: Up until that time this was a sleepy town, somewhat isolated from the rest of the state, narrow roads down here from Raleigh and Charlotte, so we were off pretty much by ourselves which had advantages, of course. There was no pollution, there was no traffic, there was not an explosive growth, and things of that sort. But of course the introduction of I40 which was promoted primarily by the shipping industry here because shipping industry was dying on the vine. And so Mr. Peter Brown Ruffin [ph?] and others, good friends of mine, business colleagues of mine worked hard, labored hard to get the new highway put in here not fully recognizing the environmental consequences of that, but on the whole certainly a plus. And then with the establishment of the University, of course, you remember, perhaps you remember a wonderful man here, a Presbyterian minister by the name of Frank Hall, B. Frank Hall.

Jones: Yes indeed.

Taylor: Benjamin Franklin Hall, B. Frank Hall.

Jones: He was a minister too, wasn't he?

Taylor: Oh yeah, First Pearsall Memorial Church.

Jones: Right, uh-huh.

Taylor: Frank's interest at that time, this is long before UNCW, was in moving St. Andrews College to Wilmington. So there was a big contest between Wilmington, and Laurinburg, and Lumberton and other towns in this general area of trying to locate St. Andrews Presbyterian College here. Frank and that effort failed, and as a consequence of that there was a big academic vacuum and in came Wilmington College, which of course subsequently became University, wonderful place that it is. And my wife graduated from Wilmington College. I knew Bill Randall, by the way, for whom this library was named. Randall, Dr. Randall was also from the Merchant Marine Academy.

Jones: Was he really? I didn't know that.

Taylor: Yes. I believe Bill Randall, Dr. Randall might have been Superintendent of United States Merchant Marine Academy long after I had graduated.

Jones: He was very involved. Only things I know about him he was very involved in what has become now the Central Intelligence Agency. He did a lot of intelligence work overseas.

Taylor: Yes, during the war. He was-- OSS it what it was.

Jones: Yes it was.

Taylor: That's right.

Jones: And the other thing too was I knew he had an attachment to the Navy. I did not know it was Merchant Marine. He was evidently very much of a character and taken with, of course, what we call-- some people who attended, my husband being one, Carolina is the only university, you see so, but The University.

Taylor: The University.

Jones: The University. And, of course, he was quite revered, so a long-- a long history with Dr. Randall.

Taylor: You know, I regret that I did not have enough of an association with him. You know there's the town and gown factor, so to speak, that was and to some degree still is, less so now than then, a gap in between the faculties and so on.

Jones: There still is, I think.

Taylor: Yeah, but I've come to overcome that and enjoy my association out here, but Randall was a wonderful man. I'm almost certain he was a former Superintendent of the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York where I graduated. And so I have that commonality with him. I had forgotten he was with OSS during the war. I'm not sure I ever knew that. But any rate, as time went on the children grew up and Walker, my wonderful son Walker Taylor IV, married Amy, who I believe you said you've interviewed _________.

Jones: Yeah. I've talked to Amy and she also inducted me into becoming a board member with the Domestic Violence Shelter and Services, right. She's a whirlwind.

Taylor: Oh, yeah. Amy is on the Board of Trustees of Davidson College and her son, one of my grandsons is going to Davidson College next year as a young freshman on a...

Jones: So that's be three generations?

Taylor: On a scholarship. Uh-huh.

Jones: Good for him.

Taylor: On a scholarship. He got an academic and a golf scholarship. Can you imagine?

Jones: Golf?

Taylor: Golf. Got-- getting a scholarship to play golf. And then Amy has two other children, Bates, a wonderful young man, a charismatic young boy. He's a football player over at Williston Junior High, although he's going to New Hanover where I went in 1942. He's going to be a football player over there. And Juliette, her wonderful daughter and my granddaughter just graduated from Alderman. So that's the three children. They live right around the corner from us so I see them practically every day.

Jones: Uh-huh, that's nice.

Taylor: It means so much to Ethel and me them over there in a minute or two. Then I have a son Allen Taylor who married Jill Pike [ph?] who was born and raised on Dock Street, Wilmington, N.C. He's the Senior Vice President of the Bank of America in Atlanta, very, very successful. Did it all on his own. Daddy didn't help him out. He went in, got a masters degree from ________, graduated from Chapel Hill, got a masters degree and has risen...

Jones: I have to tell you. I can still not get over the fact that Bank America has moved east and is in the south, because I grew up in California and we were an old, old family who knew the Giannini Family who began the Bank of Italy which became the Bank of America.

Taylor: That's right. Was it Giannini?

Jones: Giannini, Bernard Giannini.

Taylor: I had his-- I remember his picture was on some notes or documents.

Jones: Well, old man Giannini the-- who was straight from Italy, basically, they did business back at the turn of the century, the last century, with a handshake. And my grandfather, who was 50 before he married, helped build the Southern Pacific Railroad all the way up to San Francisco. And they were all-- everybody knew everybody else, you know, but I remember as a child going to children's parties there and so forth. And then when it moved out it spread and it was bought, and I thought that is not the Bank of America. That's not the Bank of America I know. I've gotten used to it.

Taylor: Now, I'm sure that I had forgotten all about that, Bank of America ________.

Jones: Yes it was the bank-- it began as the Bank of Italy in San Francisco and then...

Taylor: San Francisco, right.

Jones: Then it became-- he took in a couple of partners and it became the Bank of America.

Taylor: Uh-huh and Hugh McCall, a businessman in Charlotte, I believe, in my mind at least in the years there, it became-- at first it was American Trust Company in Charlotte when I was at Davidson. Then it became Nations Bank. Then it became the Bank of America, and it's a marvelous institution.

Jones: Well, it's worldwide.

Taylor: Oh, yeah worldwide. My son's so proud of it, and so on.

Jones: Yeah, but you can't go in and do business on a handshake any more.

Taylor: Well, that's true. Everything's computerized. At any rate, so I have a son Allen in Atlanta and he has three children, Andrew, Charlotte and Margaret. They're young tots. And then my daughter, English Ball, English Taylor Ball married Robert Ball, she's in Atlanta. Just they've been playing golf this week at St. Andrews, Scotland. At St. Andrews, by the way, where young Walker who is a champion golfer is a member of St. Andrews Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews.

Jones: That's the place to play in Scotland.

Taylor: That's the place to play. As a matter of fact she's flying home today. June 12th that's her 50th birthday. I just sent her an e-mail a moment ago. And they have three children, two at the University of Georgia and one in preparatory school, Westminster School down there, wonderful young children.

Jones: Well, you've got quite a family.

Taylor: I'm blessed to have nine grandchildren, four children and a healthy loving selfless wife.

Jones: You're a very lucky man.

Taylor: I'm a lucky guy, absolutely, yes ma'am.

Jones: Let me just ask you a couple of things here. I think you for this history, it's-- was your father or grandfather involved in the 1888 situation?

Taylor: Eighteen-ninety eight?

Jones: Eighteen-ninety eight, excuse me.

Taylor: Yeah, Colonel Walker Taylor.

Jones: That's what I thought.

Taylor: Colonel Walker Taylor. I remember Colonel Taylor, my grandfather very well. He was an expansive, warm, loving man, enormously popular in the Wilmington-- matter of fact, tomorrow I'm going to a board meeting of his handiwork, the Brigade Boys and Girls Club.

Jones: That's what I know about.

Taylor: Which he started in 1896.

Jones: Was he-- was he-- was he the one, I think he was, excuse me, who actually introduced a lot of those children to Bible study?

Taylor: Oh yes. Yeah. That-- children, the boy...

Jones: But that was part of the program was it not?

Taylor: Oh, yeah. His rule was the children, it was boys only then, the boys had to go some Sunday school. He didn't tell what Sunday school, but they had to go to a Sunday school in order to be a member of the Boy's Brigade. And his primary emphasis was on character building. These were children, by and large, from the Dry Pond area who did not have a lot of home advantages and grandfather tried to make them into young men, Christian young men, or Jewish that was irrespective of that, but molding character and that's still the mission of the club. I'm going over there for a board meeting after...

Jones: Where is it located now?

Taylor: It's over on-- near shipyard, right in back of WECT on Vance Street. We-- during the early days...

Jones: They had that building that looked like a fortress.

Taylor: That's exactly right. Grandfather had that built. He got Mrs. Kenan or Wise, one or the other, to give the money to build that and, but finally it fell into disrepair so we moved to 3rd and Worchester Street, which is a big building on the corner right now. But then when the bridge came in the track was intolerable and so we bought the property in, I guess we used to call that Maffick [ph?] Village, I think, I'm not sure.

Jones: Yes. Yes.

Taylor: So it's out of sight, but we have a wonderful program over there. There's a gifted man who runs it, a young minister as a matter of fact.

Jones: We don't hear much about it anymore.

Taylor: Well, it's-- he's-- over there right now you'll see three or four hundred children. Most of them toddlers up...

Jones: It is now the Boys and Girls Club isn't it.

Taylor: Boys and Girls from toddlers up to teenagers.

Jones: That's wonderful.

Taylor: Keep them off the street, keep them out of trouble the best we can, and the best they can. Of course there's a fine Community Boys Club on the north side of town, so essentially we have decided ________________ to offer something of that sort. Dan Cameron was a benefactor of the Community Boys and Girls Club. But any rate, yeah, Colonel Taylor was involved in that. And I have-- we not hardly ever talked about the sad events of 1898. I don't remember it hardly ever mentioned as a matter of fact, but he had the role, I believe, of a mediator.

Jones: I was going to say. That's what I've heard and read.

Taylor: That he was appointed by the governor, whoever that was at that time, to try to keep the peace between opposing forces. So he was a kind of a neutral figure in there, certainly a great Christian gentleman, great sense of humor. You mentioned the railroad a minute ago, the South Pacific, Southern Pacific is that what you called it?

Jones: That's what it is.

Taylor: Yeah, grandfather, there used to be railroad here called the WB&S. Wilmington Brunswick and Southern Railroad, and which was 25 miles long from Wilmington to Southport, and grandfather was president of the WB&S railroad. And he went to a meeting with the head of Southern Pacific that you mentioned a moment ago, in Paris one time, railroad presidents. And of course Southern Pacific, Union Pacific thousands of miles long and the president of Southern Pacific turned to Colonel Taylor and said, "Tell me about you railroad." And he says, "Well, it's not as long as yours but it's just as wide," so he had a great sense of humor.

Jones: There you go. Yeah that was in an era of tremendous railroad building.

Taylor: But Colonel Taylor was a magnificent man. There was a ship named for him and built at the shipyard here in Wilmington. Matter of fact I've got a photograph of my sister christening that vessel. Ships bale, that ship survived the war, and I've got the ships steering wheel and the bale and the name plate were given to me and they are posted in my insurance office right now as a matter of fact. So he's kind of father figure in our minds. His portrait's in my office and so on. And my father, of course, worked for him.

Jones: When did the insurance business-- when did this-- you're the oldest in North Carolina. When did that start?

Taylor: Colonel Taylor joined the firm in 1878. It was a prior firm that had been established by insurance company records in 1866. It used to be called the Darrouzett [ph?] and Norfolk Insurance Firm. Remember the name Darrouzett?

Jones: Oh, well of course I do.

Taylor: And Darrouzett is one of the oldest names in Wilmington. So Colonel Taylor came to work for the Darrouzett firm in 1878 and then acquired it in the 1880s. So ________...

Jones: And Darrouzett firm dated back to the 1860s?

Taylor: Eighteen-sixty-six, yes ma'am, and I think that's on my business card.

Jones: That's wonderful. I'm going to use that.

Taylor: So it dates back prior to Colonel Taylor, but our name, his name has been associated with it since 1878.

Jones: That is a long time. Are you the-- are you-- is this family the only one that can go back that far as far as a business ownership is concerned? I'm tying to think of a few others. So many of them have changed hands or...

Taylor: Yeah, we've never changed hands, because it went from grandfather to my father, to me, to my children. I suppose that unbroken probably so.

Jones: It must be because I can't think of another one. I don't care what kind of business.

Taylor: But we don't live on history. We live on today and tomorrow and our business is now highly computerized. We do most all of our business electronically by the internet and we're fortunate to have customers up and down the east coast. One of our largest customers, my daughter Katherine handles is in Boston Massachusetts and they are a huge internet company. And Walker is very active in life sciences, pharmaceutical liabilities and things of that sort.

Jones: Well, those are all necessary that's for sure.

Taylor: So we are on the cutting edge so to speak. Still a bread and butter kind of place, loving mom and pop businesses, locally owned businesses, but so much has changed in the world of commerce that we are trying to adapt ourselves to new ways. And I'm very proud of what they've done, and that's primarily Walker and Katherine's leadership ________.

Jones: That's wonderful.

Taylor: So any rate it's-- it's fun being down there. I like to work with them. And if I didn't go to work at the insurance agency I'd have to work around the house and I don't like to work around the house. I like to do what Wilbur does, travel and write books.

Jones: My husband, I said, "Why don't you learn how to retire?" He said, "And do what?" I said, "Well, now that you've mentioned it I don't know." Because he's always involved in something, you know, constantly something.

Taylor: Oh yeah, he's a captain and I've always admired anybody who has that rank. My brother Victor, who I'm very fond of, was very close to, Victor died this year.

Jones: I know, he went to the funeral.

Taylor: I know he did. It was packed. Victor was very affectionate.

Jones: Now, did you-- let me ask you something. Wilbur was trying to tell me this and somebody else. Victor Taylor married Ethel's sister?

Taylor: That's correct. So we were ________.

Jones: So two brothers married two sisters.

Taylor: That's correct.

Jones: Just like the McKeiver [ph?] sisters, the McKeiver brothers, married, I guess, Gladys and Mildred McKeiver married Lamar and gosh, what is his name? I can't remember it. Seeden [ph?], their maiden name was Seeden and it was a case of two brothers marrying two sisters.

Taylor: You know, I did not know that. Of course I know Lamar, and I knew Lamar.

Jones: And Mildred.

Taylor: And Gladys right well, very pleasantly. But there was a Joe whose father taught school, him and Sydney. They live right around the corner from me. Any rate, couldn't remember all those.

Jones: So you met this lovely lady at the Red Cross and she had a sister for your brother.

Taylor: That's right. It's a package deal.

Jones: A package deal. Well, that's cool.

Taylor: Victor was a wonderful man and he died an early age, because he's seven years younger than I am. And Betsy, Ethel's-- was Ethel's younger sister herself. So any rate they have wonderful children who live down in their father's house at Bradley Creek Point and taking care of the place and I'm sure my brother's very proud of them. Victor was also a captain like Wilbur. Victor was a captain, and a Navy captain, ________. He and Sandy Robinson-- there used to be a Naval Vessel here called the Plovert [ph?], it was stationed here and these were the weekend warriors, you know, they'd go down and serve on active duty.

Jones: Right, well Wilbur was reserve.

Taylor: And doing that. And that's how Victor was-- Victor stayed with it, I didn't. When I got out of the Navy in 1953 I just didn't do it. I might have stayed a half a dozen years, but not enough. I should have. You get a nice pension which I'd be glad to have, but any rate.

Jones: Well, that's interesting that you did this. What do you miss the most about the old Wilmington?

Taylor: Well, let's see.

Jones: Now given the fact, I understand, given the fact that I40 opened up avenues for a lot of people. They could come to vacation here. Many of them came to live here. I jokingly, I'm not a native of course, but I jokingly refer to the fact that the entire Long Island moved down here. But I know that-- I hear a lot of the natives, a lot of my husband's friends, and my husband from time to time, say that they appreciate so many of the new things that have happened. They appreciate the volunteers who take part in preserving history, but that there's a certain element that is missed. And one lady, Ann Hutteman, said it's the front porch. You can longer sit on the front porch of an evening and talk to your friends as they go by. You don't know everybody. Some people say they don't care, but everybody has an opinion.

Taylor: Well, I like it the way it is. I'm happy to be here, happy to be alive. I'm 83 now, something like that. I remember my mother's family was the Grainger's, Victor Grainger, J.V. Grainger, and that was my grandfather and he was president of the Murchison Bank down at Front and Chestnut Street and he walked to work everyday as Colonel Taylor did too. Colonel Taylor had a chauffer, I think, I've forgotten. At any rate, I miss the calmness of the lack of traffic sitting on the porch as that person has said.

Jones: Order, an orderly life.

Taylor: Quiet and clean and so on, but I'm old enough or young enough or something or other also to remember the depression era when things were very, very difficult. I remember lots of men my father's generation lost everything they had in the depression. So there was a depressing feeling, not poverty, but fairly close to poverty of a lot of prominent families who in prior to that time were well to do. So I remember my uncle Adair McCoy [ph?], wonderful man, handsome, Adair, and he was out of a job for what, ten years or more, didn't have any source of income so to speak. And that depression era kind of hung over the town somewhat like appall I would say. So I was involved with Dan Cameron and others in the Committee of 100.

Jones: Of 100.

Taylor: Recruiting...

Jones: Businesses.

Taylor: Businesses which brought the influx of population and so on, because the economy was poor, and when the Coastline left here.

Jones: I was just going to bring that up.

Taylor: I remember that just like yesterday and all of a sudden it would be like, and it would be almost as if suddenly the Board of Governors of UNC would say we're going to remove UNCW from this town and put it some other place, and what a hole that would be. It's unimaginable. Well, comparably I believe the Atlantic Coastline Railroad had such a relatively high...

Jones: The first time I ever came to Wilmington was in 1916. I met my in-laws and all I heard was, "The Coastline is moving, what are we going to do?" And I thought everybody in town must have worked for the Coastline to hear them talk.

Taylor: Well, I would say one out of every three families that I knew, we knew, and all of them were high class people. They had to either retire, quit or move to Jacksonville, Florida. So it left an enormous hole. There was no business to be transacted. There was no money flowing. Front Street which was the official headquarters of Wilmington at the time was devastated and so on. And so Dan Cameron I give a lot, of course, of proper recognition to Dan for his leadership there. He recruited a bunch of the rest of us to work with him and collectively recruited businesses to fill that place. Now...

Jones: He told us one time that if the Coastline had not moved that situation, of course, would never have existed, but he said also the Committee of 100 would ever have been formed to bring other businesses in.

Taylor: There was no need for it, he's right.

Jones: There was no need for it, but he said it was a healthy thing to do to diversify.

Taylor: Uh-huh, probably so, although there was a cultural difference in GE and DuPont and the Atlantic Coastline Railroad Company. First the major executives there were themselves several generation employees. They were born and raised out of here. They were of us, so to speak. And there wasn't any distinction between the culture of the railroad headed by Champ Davis, and while General Electric, DuPont and the others that Dan and company were successful, you were bringing in strangers to the territory.

Jones: That's true. That's true.

Taylor: And not that that's bad, but it was different, it was quite different. And there's been some degree of assimilation and difficulty there because there's a transitory nature of those executives while the railroad executives were here forever.

Jones: They were just here.

Taylor: They were just here, born here, spent their lives at the railroad. And I knew Mr. Champ Davis fairly well. He established the Davis Nursing Home, asked me to be a trustee of it about 40 years ago, as a matter of fact, and I still am. He endowed it well. And so he left a living legacy that helped elderly people, and a remarkable man. C. Mc D. Davis, too bad he's-- he was a great benefactor of the University, a great supporter of the University as I remember it. I think Champ died in 1975 so it was in the earliest days.

Jones: Well, this thing said, and I'm happy to hear you feeling comfortable with the way things are. I've heard most people who are from here and whose families have been here for a long time have said that they relish the changes, they relish-- in some ways. And that they look forward to a number of things that are happening. They're glad that a lot of these people have gone ahead and stepped in with historic preservation and that sort of thing. And then there's a certain group that says, "No, I liked it the way it was. It's radically changed. I feel-- I don't feel comfortable." But when I asked, and I'll ask you, what would you like to see become a reality here, I get mixed answers too. Some say I can't think of anything and others will give me, you know, certain opinions. So I'm going to ask you, what would you like to see become a reality in this area, somebody's who's got several generations of family invested here, business here, families here, or is there anything that you've thought of?

Taylor: I'm tying to think Carroll to answer your question. It's a new question and so I...

Jones: Yeah, well, what do you think about the tremendous growth and how it's reeling across the river and Brunswick County is now becoming almost an annexation of Wilmington.

Taylor: Or vice a versa. Brunswick County might be the survivor in all of this they are so strong over there.

Jones: Well, somebody suggested recently, in fact it was George Rountree.

Taylor: Did you interview George?

Jones: Oh, yeah. He's a friend of Wilbur's. They have lunch together and ________. Anyway, he said, "You know, Brunswick County's going to be the bedroom community and we're going to be the diamond in the middle where you come for relaxation, entertainment, to shop, to dine." That's a thought.

Taylor: Well, I think that's certainly the original view. It is now so successful over there that I think they are largely independent of New Hanover County. I'm not sure about that, but they're so successful, the development of Brunswick Forest a thousand acre, multi-thousand acre, and plus all the-- when you see a Wal Mart and things of that sort, Waterford and all those coming in it's almost self sufficient over there. They only thing they don't have is a general hospital and a university. But any rate, there is certainly a price paid on spoilage of the land, certainly, the loss of forestry areas. In a small way the University's to some degree of controversy about destroying some of the area out here. I read about it, know nothing about it. But any rate and I just remember the beautiful wooded areas and the clean streams and rivers and the waters.

Jones: Yeah, Charlotte and John Hicks said that they can remember a time when they could just walk out and pick up clams, and it was clean, and everything seemed such freedom. They don't have that now.

Taylor: That's true. That's certainly a price of population explosion and so on. But I don't lament it because there's nothing I can do about it. It's inevitability of a growing vibrant population, and so over all I-- over all I think it's pretty good. I'm proud of the place is ________________.

Jones: Okay, good, I'm glad to hear it.

Taylor: Yeah, I'd like to go back to some things yesterday. I'd like to be the age of this young man filming this thing right now.

Jones: And know what you know now.

Taylor: But there's nothing I can do about that so I don't worry about it.

Jones: I know it. How about the next eight to ten years, you foresee continued growth? Do you think that we've hit our limit?

Taylor: I tend to thing we're about built out. You know, Hanover County is no longer active in the Wilmington Industrial Development Committee of 100, but there's not virtually any place left for great expansions here, and in residential situations were probably overbuilt. A major cause of the loss of market in houses is we've got too many. There's more houses than there should be for the market. I tend to think it's going to be a while before we-- I asked young Rick Willis, who is in a multi-generational business too, as you know.

Jones: Oh, I know about...

Taylor: You know about him.

Jones: He and-- he's in this group with the Kitty Hawk with Wilbur.

Taylor: Oh, really?

Jones: Yeah. Rick is terribly...

Taylor: Oh, really active in bringing that vessel here?

Jones: Well, they're very active and it's a possibility, but it's down the road.

Taylor: Interesting, now I asked him just the other day, I said, "Rick, what's the solution to this? I mean, we can point fingers, everybody to blame, predatory lending, and Congress and whatever you want to figure out." He said, "The only solution is attrition and that is until this-- the market levels out and the prices become stable again that there's no-- so it'll have to work itself out." That was his word, attrition. And I think that makes some-- makes sense to me. The Kitty Hawk, isn't that interesting? I don't know anything about that vessel. I know it's...

Jones: Well, it's the oldest one afloat, oldest aircraft carrier afloat right now, and it is going into decommission, and the Navy is willing to, after they strip it of all their war weapons and electronics, the state has asked for it and they've said essentially, "Yes, you can have it." The Problem is the place to bring it and they think they found a place now. There is some opposition because it's going to cost money, but at the same time when you figure up how many squadrons have been aboard that ship and it could be a museum and used for multi-purposes. That how many reunions that will occur and the historic part of it, so.

Taylor: There's a good case for it. I was heavily involved in brining the North Carolina here. As a matter of fact we insured the North Carolina, that voyage from Bayonne to a present, you know, berth here.

Jones: Oh, did you really?

Taylor: Oh, yes. That was a very complicated maritime insurance enterprise. I was downtown when the battleship collided with the...

Jones: With the arc.

Taylor: Arc, I was standing right there. Matter of fact I went back to my office and phoned London, because I had that insurance with Lloyds, to tell them about that. But any rate we raised-- Hugh Morton and others that were involved in that raised money through school children _________________.

Jones: Hugh Morton told Wilbur and Rick and a couple of other people, "Do it." He said, "If I were"-- this was just a year ago before he-- just before he died. He said, "It's a good thing. We could do it." And, of course, to say that's easy, but still.

Taylor: Is there one down in Charleston in that area?

Jones: There is one at Patriot's Point, and there is one in Mobile and there is one in New York harbor. And there's one now in San Francisco and they're all doing well. They're museums. They've centered parks around them and all this sort of thing. Anyway.

Taylor: At any rate well, we'll see how that unfolds.

Jones: Yeah, it's off in a distance.

Taylor: The battleship was a major asset to this town, been over there a number of times. I guess I was one of the Admirals. I think that was what they called people-- called people who supported it. It was something I can't remember now.

Jones: Well, that's due for an overhaul now. They've got to take that out so it's always something. But it would just be another dimension to this area.

Taylor: Uh-huh, yes ma'am.

Jones: Well, Mr. Taylor this has been very interesting. I'm glad you came.

Taylor: Thank you.

Jones: And if there's anything more you'd like to add to it now.

Taylor: I can't-- speak now or forever hold your peace.

Jones: Sort of. Sort of. Sort of.

Taylor: I don't. No, as you can tell I just answered the question.

Jones: Well, you have a wonderful, wonderful family and you've got a wonderful background, and of course, you know, you've been involved in so many things that have been needed to happen here.

Taylor: Well, I'm most grateful to you and your young cameraman there. I'll be glad to see this. How does it look son?

Malpass: It looks fantastic.

Taylor: It does look all right?


Taylor: Uh-huh.

Jones: You will get a copy of this.

Taylor: Okay. All right. Good.

Jones: Yeah, I don't know when, but you will get a copy of it.

Taylor: Yes ma'am. Okay, well, thank you, Carroll, I'm glad to be out here.

Jones: Thank you for coming.

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