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Interview with Robert Warwick, July 23, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Robert Warwick, July 23, 2008
July 23, 2008
Interview with Robert (Bob) Warwick. Bob Warwick has been involved in the finances and growth of Wilmington since 1958. In addition, he has served on UNCW's Board of Trustees, Board of Governors, and Foundation Board.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Warwick, Robert Interviewer: Jones, Carroll Date of Interview: 7/23/2008 Series: SENC Notables Length 60 minutes

Jones: Today is Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008. I'm Carroll Jones with Chris Malpass, for the Randall Library Special Collections Oral History Project. And we're in the Helen Hagan Room Special Collections at UNCW. Our very special guest this afternoon is Bob Warwick, civic leader, CPA, philanthropist, recipient of lifetime achievement award, Vision 2020 and a great friend of the University. Good afternoon, Bob, we are honored.

Warwick: I, too.

Jones: Did I get that right?

Warwick: Partially right, anyway.

Jones: Well, make the corrections, please. I have to wing it, you know. I was going to behind your back and ask a few people that know you to give me a heads-up, and I thought no, let him do it. Let's start by your telling us a little bit about you, your early years, where you're from, if you had a mentor, what makes Bob tick, your first job, things like that. Just a little background.

Warwick: Okay. I'm a native of Wilmington, grew up here, and lived here during the war years when things were very interesting.

Jones: Which war?

Warwick: World War II. I wasn't here for the War of Northern Aggression.

Jones: That's still going on, isn't it?

Warwick: I went to Chapel Hill my freshman year, and then I went to Wilmington College in the summer of 1955, and in the fall of 1955, and then I went back to Chapel Hill in 1956 and finished an accounting degree at Chapel Hill, and I took a job with a CPA firm, C. S. Lowrimore &; Company in Wilmington, came back here. When I came back here I was married and had a child. And I started work in June of 1958, so I just finished my 50th year of practicing accounting. Not too many of us go that long in the accounting field. But...

Jones: Was that going crazy?

Warwick: I enjoy it and I still enjoy it, so I'm going to keep on doing it as long as I enjoy it.

Jones: Now are you still associated with RSM McGladrey?

Warwick: I'm a member of the RSM McGladrey Inc., and McGladrey &; Pullen LLP firms here in Wilmington, and have been with them for the past 17 years. We merged our firm, it was called Lowrimore Warwick &; Company at the time we merged with McGladrey, and have enjoyed that association. It's worked out well for us.

Jones: Are they in Charlotte?

Warwick: McGladrey is headquartered in Minneapolis. It's the fifth largest firm in the country, and have about 100 offices in the U.S. and affiliates in 75 countries overseas, so it's a large firm. We have offices in Wilmington, Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, New Bern, Greenville, Morehead City in North Carolina.

Jones: Amazing. Well, you've got some smart people there. Jennifer Presnell [ph?] happens to give us hell once in a while.

Warwick: Right. She's a verifying CPA.

Jones: She is indeed. So you are still associated with them, you've been with them for 17 years.

Warwick: Right, and merged my firm with them, so in effect it's, you know-- I haven't moved, the firm moved. But I've been really practicing accounting in the same basic area for 50 years.

Jones: You are from Wilmington, so it wasn't that you had any great need to come here, except it was home. Where did you go to school here, besides New Hanover?

Warwick: I went in Chestnut Street School, which is now Snipes. And it was called Chestnut Street when I went there three to eighth grade, and then I went to New Hanover for 9th through the 12th grade.

Jones: What was your first job?

Warwick: My first job other than being a paper boy, and a bag boy in a grocery store was selling shoes at Kenny Shoe Store on Front Street. And I started working there when I was 14, and worked there the four years I was in high school, and learned a lot selling shoes. It was a great education for me. In fact I like to kid my accounting professional friends that I learned more about business in the shoe store than I did in business school. You do learn a lot about people in a shoe store. And at that time downtown Wilmington was a very busy place. The Atlantic Coastline headquarters were downtown, and all of the retail basically was downtown, and so there was a lot of traffic. And Wilmington was one of the top-- Kenny's had 500 stores in the country, and Wilmington was in the top ten in sales a number of weeks in the year. And we had a great manager there, fellow named Folgin [ph?] who was a very good teacher.

Jones: Were you always interested in something having to do with numbers? Were you good in math in school?

Warwick: Well, I did well in math, and I enjoyed that. And I actually, when I went to Chapel Hill I was going to major in economic statistics because it was a professor there who was originally from Wilmington, he was 29-years old, had a doctorate in statistics, a doctorate in math and a doctorate in economics. His name was Alan Spivey. Alan just died here recently. But Alan was a excellent teacher and he talked me into majoring in economic statistics until I found out that in order to get a job in that field I either had to teach at the university level or go to New York or Washington. Those were the only places back then that you could get a job in that field, and I didn't really want to do that, so I switched to accounting and I'm glad I did. Worked out well.

Jones: When did you start in with accounting? Was it right after college?

Warwick: Yeah. I first started in June of 1958, just a few days after I graduated.

Jones: And what was it like being low man on the totem pole for a big firm like that? Is the structure something like a law office, you go in and you're a junior, and they give you all kinds of stuff to do, and you rack up your hours and present them a bill, and they pay you?

Warwick: Well, you start off at the bottom, and back in those days you didn't make very much money. I made $350 a month. And we worked long hours in the wintertime during what we call tax season. We worked between 55 and 65 hours a week. During the rest of the year we worked more or less a 40-hour week unless it was something special that had to be done. And in addition to passing the CPA exam you have to have two years of experience before you can get your CPA certificate. So I passed the exam right after I got out of college, but I had to wait about two years to get my certificate. And normally you work as a staff accountant those first two years, and then what was called back then, a senior accountant. And then you move on up. I had a break in that I did become a partner in the firm in 1962.

Jones: That was pretty quick, wasn't it?

Warwick: Because they had a need, and so it opened up for me and it worked out well. And I was a partner with Mr. Lowrimore, Charlie Lowrimore for 11 years before-- and he retired in '73 and I became the managing partner of the firm then.

Jones: What was the complete name of the firm again?

Warwick: It was C. S. Lowrimore &; Company.

Jones: How do you spell Lowrimore?

Warwick: L-O-W-R-I-M-O-R-E, and then it became Lowrimore Warwick &; Company, and stayed that until we merged with McGladrey. And at the time that I became a partner there we had one office and about eight people. When we merged with McGladrey we had three offices and about 100 people. So we had grown a good bit, been fortunate.

Jones: And they've got those huge places right now in that new building. That's terrific. Do you personally or does the firm specialize in any particular kind of accounting, for example, some lawyers do marine law, some are civil law, or do you just take whoever needs a service?

Warwick: Well, our firm has a lot of specialization. In a firm as large as ours we have about 50 people in the Wilmington office now. And so we cover a pretty broad range of specialties. I personally now primarily work in the area of business valuations. I do a lot of business valuations. Some of those are connection with estates and estate planning work, some of it is in connection with equitable distribution matters and all, some of it helping people buy and sell businesses. I also do a good bit of work, and have done a lot of work over the years in helping people buy and sell businesses. I also do some estate planning and incoming tax planning work.

Jones: This must have kept you busy, or probably still does, from the mid-'80s on with all the huge influx of people coming here and businesses relocating here. Tell me what comes first? Tell me about Vision 2020. Is that the correct name for it?

Warwick: Well, the group that I was primarily involved with is something called community growth planning, which was a group that we started about ten years ago that involved the Chamber of Commerce, the committee of 100, the city, the county, the university, the community college, the hospital and a number of other groups. We have about 20 individuals involved in that planning, and our goal with that was to look at opportunities for planning for our area as we group. And we felt like if we could get all of these organizations together to talk about it and look at opportunities, whether it's, you know, highway opportunities or parks, things of that nature, whatever the need was, there were several things that our group did. And one of the first things that we did, we really pushed for the county to acquire Airlie Gardens, and that was, I think, one of the highlights of what we've been able to do.

Jones: It was very controversial at the time.

Warwick: It was controversial at the time, but I think most people will say it was a great acquisition by the county. We also pushed to get Martin Luther King Parkway finished three years earlier than it would have been finished, and that was a great need and it obviously is a big help to people that are coming into the downtown area or people that need to bypass the city on the north side, and that's worked very well. We also supported early on some school bond issues which were needed and were successfully passed. We were also advocates of consolidation of the water and sewer for the city and the county, and primary reason being that we felt like that in the long run it's got to be more efficient to have one group managing a system for the whole county. And since the city and the county are so intertwined, then it's such a small geographic area. But I think that also will work out to the taxpayers' and the citizens' advantage over the long term. It's, of course, just getting started now, but we believe that's certainly something good for all of us. And we had the city, and the county and other governmental agencies that really worked very well together in trying to bring all of these things to pass.

Jones: I'm taking into consideration what I hear around. There's always some issues that come up when the city and the county are involved from every quarter, whether they are people who have lived here all their lives, people who have come here 15 years ago or five years ago. And on your committee, is it made up of people from all of those areas that I just spoke about, or are they made up of people who mainly have lived here a long time, who think they know what they're doing, profess to know what they're doing and certainly spend enough time looking behind and ahead to figure out that what they're saying they want is good. Did that make sense?

Warwick: I think we have a very diverse group of people that are involved in the community growth planning process. And in addition to the individuals on the committee, of course each of them are representing an organization that has a staff and people who are researching the issue and trying to provide us with information. In addition to that we, you know, brought in experts in all of these areas to present information to our committee to help us be sure we were making good decisions. We've also had public meetings, we've had public planning meetings in all of these areas in which we invited the public to come and give us input. I'm not saying we got all the information that's possible to get, but we tried to get enough information to make a good decision.

Jones: Do you have something in the pipeline? Is this same group in effect?

Warwick: We have not met this year, and I think the-- it probably will be reorganized a little bit going forward in the future.

Jones: We'll come back to those issues in a minute, because obviously in today's world there are lot of them. And part of the reason for this project is to take into consideration the humungous growth and changes that have blown everybody's mind once that census in every area was taking place over the past ten years. So you certainly do have your finger in the pulse of that. The Vision 2020, the community growth planning was the outgrowth of that, basically?

Warwick: Well, Vision 2020 is actually a different group. Vision 2020 is primarily looking at downtown Wilmington, and planning for the downtown area. And they've done a lot of good work and I think there are a lot of positive things that are happening downtown.

Jones: Well, that's a whole other subject. Like Cape Fear Community College and of course PPD is there. And the changes that the convention center might have, what are we going to do about parking, all the crying and whining that's going on, businesses should be down there, parking taking up all the space. I talked to a gentleman yesterday who welcomes all of this, and he's with a non-profit. And he said, "You know, it's going to be a boon." Talk to somebody else, they say, "Oh, oh, oh." So maybe you can give me an idea of how you feel this is going to affect the downtown area, how you see it evolving over a period of time.

Warwick: Well, my office has always been downtown. It's always been within a few blocks of where it is today. And I was downtown when the Atlantic Coastline announced they were going to move to Jacksonville, Florida. I was there when they did move, I was there when all of the riverfront was dead, closed warehouses, there was nothing going on downtown. And it's a lot better today. I'm a believer that you either grow or you die. And I want positive growth, I want to plan for the growth, but I want it to provide economic opportunity for the young people that graduate from this university and from Cape Fear Community College to be able to stay here and get a good job, not just a job, but a good job. And we will have to grow for that to happen. Now is all growth good? No. All of nothing is probably good. It's just hard to have everything exactly the way you want it. But I will say this, that I think there are a lot of positive things going on downtown. I'm strongly an advocate for PPD locating their headquarter downtown, and I'm a supporter of the convention center. I think that's a positive for downtown, and I think that's a positive for the people of Wilmington in the long run. And I think that generally speaking the development that's going on downtown right now is positive, and I'm glad to see it. I'm glad I was able to stay long enough to see it.

Jones: Well, it does look very interesting, and it looks like we'll be grown-ups if they do complete this. And when I stop to think about the high schools and the colleges, they have no place to graduate, of course the college is planning to build something, except what is down there now, part of the old railroad museum. This is a place, having lived in a big city most of my life, could be multi-useful and provide jobs and services. Who was it that said, "If you build it they will come," on that old baseball ad? We'll see what happens and I do hope you're right. The one thing, though, that so many people worry about is Cape Fear Community College taking up all the space, prime space down there, when they have Blue Clay Road. And that it is hindering parking, another parking debt, et cetera. How do you feel about that? You're a supporter of the Cape Fear Community College, we all are. They've done a great job, but there again, down in that area.

Warwick: Well, my understanding is Cape Fear Community College doesn't plan to acquire any more land in the downtown area. They will be utilizing some of the land they already have for the two new buildings they are proposing to build downtown, and I think that's fine. I think, you know, eventually a lot of their expansion will need to be on the north campus, but I think the two new buildings they're proposing to build downtown is fine, as far as I'm concerned.

Jones: I'm amazed when I hear statistics about their enrollment and what they're providing. And if they can do that and educate somebody who can't afford or who has not got the wherewithal one way or another to attend a four-year college, that's fine. Everybody needs an education.

Warwick: Right. They do a great job.

Jones: Your association with UNCW, you're still on one of the committees or boards or whatever. Are you now on the board of governors?

Warwick: No. I spent eight years on the board of governors, and my term expired in July 1st, 2005.

Jones: That was eight years then.

Warwick: Right. I spent eight years on the board of trustees here, and that term expired in 1997. Before that I was 15 years on the foundation board here, and that-- I came off of that board before I went on the board of trustees. I co-chaired the first capital campaign that UNCW had back in the '90s, and I am currently co-chairing the current capital campaign that just started a year ago.

Jones: And you are chairing it?

Warwick: Co-chairing with Sandy McNeil [ph?].

Jones: You're co-chairing it again?

Warwick: I co-chaired the first one with Dan Cameron.

Jones: That is very admirable.

Warwick: In addition to that I've been on the advisory board for the Cameron School of Business, and the advisory board for the Watson School of Education.

Jones: That's what I heard. I heard that from somebody that I know very well.

Warwick: And I've had the privilege of working with Don Watson to give him the money for the Watson School of Education. I solicited that contribution and worked with him on that. And I solicited the Cameron's for their gift to the Cameron School of Business. I also had the privilege of working with Harold Green to give the money for the Harold Green Track. And I've had the opportunity to work with some other people who've made nice gifts here.

Jones: Well, we're glad that you did. My understanding is, too, that the University has just acquired some property across the street that the Green's own, the apartment buildings, and they're going to be doing wondrous things with that, whatever it is.

Warwick: The University Arms Apartments across the street, which they have acquired, right.

Jones: And then the last member of the Green family left and went to Atlanta, Georgia. Shame on her. You are also associated with Malswork & Matthews [ph?]?

Warwick: No, that's my son. My son is a principle in that company.

Jones: Well, that's a pretty good company. You see their signs all over town.

Warwick: It's a good company, and my son is also on the foundation board here at UNCW now.

Jones: He keeps you straight?

Warwick: He's been on the foundation and the endowment board for a while here.

Jones: Talk a little bit about what you foresee. Being a native, this is wonderful because you're looking at dramatic changes that have occurred for this, as someone has said, sleepy little one-horse town, and lived through the trauma of the Coast Line leaving, which was my introduction to Wilmington. I came here the first time as a bride with my husband, and my father-in-law at that time became president of Carolina Savings and Loan. And it was worry, worry, worry. Everybody's going to leave, and I couldn't fathom that until I realized that 50 percent in town worked for the Coast Line, so it might have made a difference, and they had to do things. But that seemed to be such a time, because I didn't stop to think until later that Wilmington was so tied to the railroads for so many things, I guess they got complacent or they just never imagined things would change. And in retrospect it was the best thing, as you mentioned and others have too, that ever happened. But I've heard from a lot of the old Wilmington families a deep sadness and a regret that that happened. They're still not sure that they welcome all these intruders down here, and people who've brought all of their habits and mannerisms from up north or wherever. And yet, as one lady told me, she welcomes them as long as they stay in their place. But as far as being involved with what goes on here, she's thrilled to death. You as somebody who's been involved here and you grew up here, and you learned that by sitting on a little stool at Kenny's Shoe Store, got your education there in humanity, obviously you have a progressive outlook on the Wilmington to come. What do you envision over the next ten years? Ten years from now if they would come back and redo these oral histories with some of these people and take a look at the wondrous things that have happened, what do you envision could happen, or you would want to see?

Warwick: Well, I think I believe over the next ten years Wilmington will continue to grow. I don't think it'll grow as fast as it has in the last ten years because right now the economy's not very good. I think, you know, we have the possibility over the next ten years that PPD will add another tower like the one they have downtown and basically double their workforce here. I think that'll be very positive. Of course General Electric is expanding their operations and expanding their nuclear fuel business here. That will be very positive. And I think that once the real estate market settles down up north you'll continue to see people selling their homes up north and moving here to retire. And over the next ten years there will be a larger group of baby boomers who will be retiring and moving to the south.

Jones: Brunswick County?

Warwick: Brunswick County of course will get a lot of that growth. Pender County will get a lot of that growth, New Hanover County cannot take a whole lot of that growth because we don't really have that much room left. But we do have, you know, a large development down on the Cape Fear River that the Newland Company is doing. It's I think in the neighborhood of 1,000 residences will be built down there. That's a large development. There is land, and of course right near the university here, but Autumn Hall is being developed and they'll be a couple of hundred homes in there.

Jones: How do you feel about that?

Warwick: Well, I think what I've seen of the Autumn Hall plans it's a very well thought out development with a lot of green space in a mixed-use development, which I'm very much in favor of mixed use. I was a big advocate for a Mayfair type development, because if we can get developments where people can live, shop...

Jones: Like villages.

Warwick: ...dine out and not have to get on the road and drive across town, that's a very positive thing. And Barclay Place over on the south side on Shipyard Boulevard is one of those type developments. Mayfair is one, Autumn Hall is one. And I think the more of those type developments we have, that's a positive thing where people can live, work and play so to speak in a relatively small area. They don't have to drive all over the county. But anyway, I think, you know, Wilmington's going to grow, it's just a matter of how fast. It can be positive if we do it right, if we plan for it, and if we do the things we need to do. I'm an advocate of building the bridge on the south side of Wilmington. I don't think that's a choice, I think that's something we have to do. I know it's going to be expensive, but...

Jones: It'll pay off.

Warwick: will be very expensive if we don't do it. And I think we need to go ahead and get started. And Lani Wilson has done a very good job for us with DOT in getting us in a position to get that bridge. And if it's a toll bridge, that's all right with me. I just came back from a trip through West Virginia, and I think I hit four toll booths on the way across West Virginia. And I don't mind paying something to drive on a good road. If that's the way it has to be to pay for it, then I'm willing to do that.

Jones: That's very interesting. How about possible high rises along the river, up in the PPD area or north of there? There's a lot of talk about that expanding.

Warwick: Well, I think part of the Vision 2020 plan is in the downtown area they have put a height restriction on buildings along the riverfront, and I think that's a good thing to do.

Jones: Do you know how many stories?

Warwick: I think the height restriction is something like 50 feet, which is about five stories.

Jones: How tall is PPD?

Warwick: That PPD building is 13 stories. It's taller than that, but it's not right on the river either. It's back a little but, but there is riverfront in front of it. And I'm not saying that it needs to be 50 feet back from the river, but I'm saying along the river we don't want a 150-foot building that blocks the ability of people to see the river and that sort of thing. But I, you know, recognize to some degree you either spread things out and cover a lot of land, or you build up. And it's one or the other, and which is worse, so to speak from a visual effect or from, you know, environmental damage. And then I would say it's better to build up than it is to build out.

Jones: How do you feel about the historic district, which really is a larger area than some people realize, on both sides of Market Street in preserving those homes, those office buildings, those stores that are there? I know that in some cases on the north side there's been a lot of talk about rehabbing any one of several buildings, and yet they stand still and they're decaying. Somebody mentioned not long ago that there comes a point where it's more economical to knock a building down and start from scratch than to try to save it. I'm thinking of the old St. Andrew's Church as one example. And right next door, of course, he has quarters for historic Wilmington.

Warwick: Right. I think generally speaking Wilmington's done a great job of preserving the historic nature of downtown, and preserving houses and buildings. There are some examples, great examples like the Bellamy Mansion, the Latimer House and others, the de Rosset House, you know, are great examples of restoration and preserving the historical natures. I think sometimes buildings, just because they are old doesn't necessarily mean they have any historical significance. And sometimes they're in such bad shape that it doesn't make economic sense to try to preserve it. There's a building across the street from our office. That building is located on Grace Street, but right near the corner of 2nd. It's an old house. It was added to several times during World War II when it was a boarding house. I've eaten lunch in that house when I was in high school, and it was still a boarding house. It's old, but it has no historical significance that I can see history of it. And the back end of the house is rotted to the point it looks like it's going to fall down. And I have to look at that when I look out of my office window. And I think that's one that needs to be removed rather than somebody trying to spend a ton of money trying to restore. I don't think it's possible.

Jones: You're probably right there.

Warwick: But I think generally speaking Wilmington has done a great job of preserving the historical nature of downtown, and I think that does add value to us. I think us attract tourists and people to come downtown and see these historical structures.

Jones: One other thing too, there are so many complaints about this. I don't know what can be done. But are you in favor of the city putting some kind of ban or making some law having to do with the number of bars in the downtown area, which seem to be a constant headache not just to the residents but to tourists. And of course most of them are inhabited by people under the age of 25, I think, at all hours of the day and night. And they leave a mess. They leave a filthy mess.

Warwick: Right. Well, they're not down there in the daytime because I'm downtown almost every day and I walk. I try to walk a mile every day at lunch and so I'll pretty much-- I cover a pretty good section of downtown almost every day.

Jones: Well, they seem to be underground, so many of them.

Warwick: There isn't that much activity going on in the daytime. Now at night it's a different story. Beginning about 10:00 I don't think anything happens much till about 10:00 downtown, and particularly on weekends. Then they attract a lot of young people. And I really think the only thing needs to be done is to enforce the laws we have. I think the problem primarily arises from people who aren't 21 and are down there drinking.

Jones: There you go.

Warwick: And you end up, you know, with incidents. Quite often the police have to come in and there are fights and whatever, and people don't respect other people's property. And my office, before we moved to 3rd and Grace we were at Front and Grace. And we were there for 20 years. And our parking lot, it was a problem, broken beer bottles, paper, trash. Monday mornings we could expect to find that there. There were all the problems associated with it. But I think primarily if the laws that we have are in force, then it's a manageable situation. Now I do think, you know, that there is an issue of how many hours we need in downtown Wilmington, and I think we probably have enough personally. But I'm not really qualified to judge that. That's just my personal opinion. But I do know that they come and go. And if they were all successful they wouldn't go. In other words, they'd all be there. So there must be more bars and so forth than are needed.

Jones: Well, it's like there are several cities that have statutes, I suppose, on their books as to how many beauty shops in one block, or a fast food store, or bars, or restaurants or whatever to keep from deteriorating I guess, and also to bring in a variety of customers. So that is a small area. And I've never been down there, I have to say, but I have a granddaughter who has told us wild stories. And you were there, that sort of thing.

Warwick: Well, a few weeks ago my wife and I had dinner downtown. And after dinner we decided to walk some along the riverfront there.

Jones: Which is wonderful today.

Warwick: Yeah, it's a great place to walk, and this was early June before things were too hot. And this was probably 10:00 at night when we came out of the restroom and, you know, we walked probably a mile, close to it. We walked all the way to the other end of the river walk, and then walked back towards the north end. And there were a lot of people there. They were having a concert, actually down there on the riverfront...

Jones: Which is wonderful.

Warwick: ...which is great. And there were a lot of people, and everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves. I didn't see anybody out of hand. Like I say, this was between 10:00 and 10:30, that time of night. Wasn't 2:00 in the morning. Yeah. I'm not down there at 2:00 in the morning and don't want to be.

Jones: I think that's a wonderful idea, and it really adds to downtown Wilmington. I love to go down and see boats pulled up. They could get off and go in and have dinner, a drink or so forth. And I think the fact, too, that Chris' Steakhouse has decided that the Hilton is worthy of them being there is a big plus. So maybe they can control the number of permits they give for alcohol. And I'm not against alcohol, but I hate it when people say, "Well, I spent a weekend in Wilmington and...," tada, tada, tada. I said, "Well, come back." But anyway if you had the power to do so, what would you want to see happen? You told me the flying bridge or the second bridge, I think most people would love to see that for expansion. And as far as the convention center is concerned, I think that's a given it's the only way to go. We're missing out if we don't have it, and for all the good reasons. High rises, they could be a boon, who knows. You can work and live in the same place. But if you had your druthers in a way, are there any other changes or anything you would like to see happen for the good of both historical way of living, business and just the area itself, because it so unique. And I'm thinking of expanding the port area to bring in ships from all over.

Warwick: I'm in favor of the port moving across the river and building a major container port in Brunswick County. I think that's the only way Wilmington's container business can survive because we just aren't in a position to be competitive with Charleston, Savannah and Norfolk with our current container port. We just don't have enough room and it's too far up the river. If we had the port down near Southport and Brunswick County, they'd have 600, I think it's about 650 acres there that they would have for the port, which is of course much larger than what they have up here. It's a lot closer to the ocean bar, so the cost to the shipper is a lot less. They can bring in bigger ships and we can compete with Charleston, Savannah and Norfolk. Over the next 25 years the forecast is that the container business in ports is going to grow significantly. Most of the ports are operating at a high level of concentration now, they don't have much room to expand, so it's an opportunity that we have, and that's good business and it contributes a lot to our economy. It also helps us attract other business, because businesses that need the port for shipping out the products or importing products, it would be a big advantage if we had this expanded container port. The port that we currently have would still be used for break bulk and bulk products, and it might have some container traffic. But it would get a lot of the container traffic on the other side of the river, and we don't necessarily need those trucks in Wilmington anyway. We have enough trucks in Wilmington.

Jones: Well, that was one of the objections somebody said about where would this truck traffic go? It would have to come right through town and over the existing bridge. And I'm thinking, well, there's got to be another route. They don't have to come through this town.

Warwick: Well, I think if we had the container port on the Brunswick County side of the river and we had a highway that connected to I-95, which we would have, then a lot of that traffic would go that way. And then the traffic going to I-40, if we have the North-17 Bypass completed from 421 over to 17, then that traffic could get to I-40 without ever coming in to Wilmington at all.

Jones: Bob, what do you thing of this? This was put to me at one time, too. I've talked to enough people, I get all kinds of ideas. It's marvelous, at least they're thinking. Someone said not long ago that they envisioned that in less than 10 years most of the bedroom communities would be in Brunswick Country, and Pender, but mostly Brunswick, and that Wilmington would stand out like a jewel, that was the word used, in the middle, and it would be the place to go for entertainment: theater, the arts, dining because of Thalian Hall, because of a convention center, because of perhaps a new concert hall which I've talked to Dr. Funk [ph?] about in great length, and it's historic district, and that there would be no more new residential growth to save the green space. And we've got erosion of beaches and such as it is. How do you feel about something like that? We would then become very unique in this country.

Warwick: Well, we're already there. We are the financial center, entertainment center, shopping center, medical center of southeastern North Carolina.

Jones: I forgot medical center, and it's growing.

Warwick: We currently provide those services to Brunswick, Pender, New Hanover County, and some to Columbus County. Remember Columbus County is only 20 miles away. It's closer that parts of-- than Brunswick County. But people come here for all of those services now, and I think that'll-- that we will continue to provide those services, and in the future there'll be more people living in Brunswick County and Pender County, and they will come to Wilmington for entertainment, for medical services, for the University, for the cultural centers and things of that nature. And we will be more of a service center to the area.

Jones: By that time maybe we will also get more airlines, if there are going to be any left, coming into ILM on a regular basis.

Warwick: Right. First of all we have to have those that we have survive, given the current crisis.

Jones: Well, that is very true. I think it's a blip though. Anything else that you would like to share with us that we should know about? Any pet projects of yours, for example?

Warwick: I think the reason Wilmington has grown and continue to grow, like I say, I've been involved with a committee of 100 for about 50 years, too, almost since the beginning of that.

Jones: When was that started?

Warwick: It was about 1958, about the time I started working. I think the reason Wilmington has been able to grow as it has and attract the industry that it has is because of this University. This is the number one reason, more than anything else. The number two reason is the medical center that we have here. The number three reason is the beaches and the recreation, and the fact that it's just a good place to live, the climate and all of those factors. But I think the number one reason is the university, and I think the university is a great contributor to our community in lots of ways, not just education, but culturally and service-wise in all types of areas.

Jones: And it will grow. They're creating more and more ways of educating people through the Master's degrees and beyond. I have to ask you this. I ask everybody this. We're right in the middle of what is becoming hurricane season. It's a given. And I've asked an awful lot of people who grew up here and didn't have the warnings that we have now like the Doppler systems, et cetera, "What did you do during the hurricane?" And normally I get this answer, "We didn't have 'hurricins'" "Hurricins," you noticed I said that. "We just would go out in the porch and watch and that, and we'd just close our windows, and that was that." And I thought well, for about a 40-year span there were no "hurricins?" Do you remember any growing up?

Warwick: Well, we had hurricanes. I remember a hurricane in the '40s that blew down all the chimneys on the house where we lived when I was a boy, which meant it must have been a pretty good hurricane. I don't really remember that much about it other than that. That's what I do remember about that storm. When Hazel hit in 1954 I was in Chapel Hill then, and I drove from Chapel Hill to Wilmington through that storm. And it took about eight hours to drive to Wilmington. We had to stop and cut trees, get telephone poles pulled off the road.

Jones: And that was over a two-lane road then, too.

Warwick: It was a two-lane road. And it was a very difficult trip. Of course we had several hurricanes in the '60s, and we had hurricanes in the '70s. I don't remember any...

Jones: But those are the ones that you knew were coming.

Warwick: Well, in the '50s and '60s we didn't really know much about them coming. Later, you know, they began to track them. And now I think they track them too long, I think. We start tracking them when they leave Africa and get people excited.

Jones: Well, that was the whole thing.

Warwick: Obviously preparation, the more people you have concentrated on the coast, the more preparation you need. All of the people left Wrightsville Beach in Hazel. I don't know anybody that stayed on Wrightsville Beach through Hazel.

Jones: They were smart.

Warwick: So there was enough warning to get all the people off. I went over on Wrightsville Beach the day after Hazel, and it was pretty well wiped out.

Jones: I've seen photographs of that, yeah.

Warwick: I only know of, you know, a couple of people that stayed at Long Beach and a couple of people that stayed at Carolina Beach. All the other people left. So there were warnings, we just didn't have warnings for ten days in advance and that sort of thing.

Jones: Well, that's interesting. I hope we don't have any big blows this year. I'm just not in the mood for it.

Warwick: Well, hopefully we won't have any.

Jones: My husband on the other hand, we have a granddaughter getting married in the middle of August, and he's not thrilled. He says, "Maybe we'll have a hurricane." Close your mouth. Bob, thank you so much for talking to us. I've learned a great deal. You've brought up a number of things that nobody else has, and that's why we wanted you, as well as your involvement here in Wilmington, not just with the university, but it seems all over the place. You are unique in that respect.

Warwick: Thank you, and I'm happy to be able to do it. And thank you for doing what you're doing.

Jones: Well, thanks. There we go. Now that was painless, wasn't it?

Warwick: Yup, it was painless.

Jones: Do you have time for any fun? I'm being factious when I say that. You're involved in so many different areas, all of them for the betterment of this community. You must love it tremendously. How many generations do you go back for living here in this area?

Warwick: I'm the second. My father moved here when he was-- my father's father was a schoolteacher and principal at Wake Forest, North Carolina when he died in 1913. And my father and mother moved here during about the start of World War I and opened a boarding house at 2nd and Orange. Back in that day that was the only way a woman could support a family, you know.

Jones: That or do sewing, evidently.

Warwick: No Social Security and that sort of thing back then. So my father went to work in the shipyard at Newport News, Virginia, when he was 13 years of age in 1916. At 14 he was a foreman of a gang welding ship Migella [ph?].

Jones: At 14?

Warwick: Fourteen. And when he got out, when the war was over he finished his-- he got his high school equivalency and he went to work for the railroad.

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