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Interview with Franklin & Marilyn Williams, January 29, 2008
January 29, 2008
Interview with retired pharmacist and former State Senator Franklin E. Williams and his wife, Marilyn. In this interview they discuss their personal histories, their involvement in local and state politics, their volunteerism, and owning and operating one of the first pharmacies to use electronic data storage.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Williams, Franklin E. and Marilyn Interviewer: Jones, Carroll Date of Interview: 1/29/2008 Series: SENC Notables Length 120 minutes


Jones: Today is Tuesday, January 29th, 2008. I'm Carroll Jones with Chris Malpass for the Randall Library's Special Collections Oral History Program. And our guests this morning are former State Senator Franklin E. Williams and his wife, Marilyn Williams. Both are involved preserving history in this region as well as participation in local events to aid those in need in the changes in southeastern North Carolina. Good morning and thank you both for visiting us.

Marilyn Williams: Good morning.

Franklin Williams: Good morning.

Jones: Visit is a good old southern word, isn't it?

Marilyn Williams: It is. It is.

Jones: But it's such a nice word. I don't care who starts, but tell us a bit about your background. Did you know each other growing up, where you're from, how you met. We'll start there and then we'll go on to a few other things.

Franklin Williams: Why don't you do that?

Jones: Marilyn, you've got to start.

Marilyn Williams: Okay.

Jones: How many sisters do you have?

Marilyn Williams: I have three sisters. I had a twin sister, I'm a twin, and I lost her at the age of fifty-seven with cancer, so I have two sisters that are still living. My brother was killed in an automobile crash and so there's just three of us still living out of five children.

Jones: You have five children?

Marilyn Williams: Out of five children.

Jones: Oh, out of five.

Marilyn Williams: Yeah, yeah, out of five children.

Jones: Out of five. So there's three of you.

Marilyn Williams: Three of us still living.

Jones: And you're all close by?

Marilyn Williams: Yeah. In fact Margaret used to live in- she married a guy from Pennsylvania and they lived in New York for years and they retired here. And my sister, Helen, lost her husband and so she just has one son that's working in Raleigh and so she decided to move to Wilmington to be with Margaret and I.

Jones: So that's wonderful. The three of you are..

Marilyn Williams: Are here.

Jones: A band of sisters.

Marilyn Williams: Yes. So we're delighted to be here.

Jones: Well, that's good.

Franklin Williams: I'm the single male.

Marilyn Williams: Yeah. He had his little harem of women that he has to take care of.

Franklin Williams: There are five of them and one of me. It's a challenge.

Jones: I think some men might envy you.

Franklin Williams: It's a challenge from time to time, but mostly I enjoy it.

Jones: Oh, that's wonderful. Now, you have children. How many do you have?

Marilyn Williams: We have two children. We have a son, Frank Junior, and he has his Masters. He's an exercise physiologist, is very sports-minded. Right now he's living in Park City, Utah and he's working with some Olympians and has a ski team that he- a race team that he works with. And he's one of the managers at the Canyon Ski Resort in Park City right now and he loves that.

Jones: Now, did he grow up here?

Marilyn Williams: Yes, he did. Yes, he did.

Jones: Where did he ski in Wilmington?

Marilyn Williams: Well..

Franklin Williams: That's a long story.

Jones: Okay. All right. We're gonna talk about you guys today.

Marilyn Williams: In fact his dad used to tell him, "Son, don't tell anybody where you're from or being a professional snow ski instructor 'cause you grew up on water skis." So he used to tell him that.

Jones: And your daughter, does she live here?

Marilyn Williams: She's here at the moment. She has her Masters in Christian Education and she's been a missionary, has been to Thailand teaching English as a second language and went with the Red Cross and wound up unfortunately in the disaster of Katrina in New Orleans. So she stuck with it a year and so she had to come home and recoup and have her knee repaired. And right at the moment, she's with us until she relocates again.

Jones: Well, you raised her to follow in your footsteps in a way in taking care of business and the needy and going where you're needed. And, Franklin, how about you? Were you born here in Wilmington?

Marilyn Williams: I was born in Wallace.

Jones: In Wallace? Well, that's close.

Marilyn Williams: In fact I was born four and a half miles west of Wallace on a farm and was really blessed to be born in the family that I was. It was all steeped in history and caring about the community. My father had, my grandfather had a little country store out in the country and took care of people. And in fact during the Depression years, he was owed a lot of money and had a very difficult time because he never-- that was David Henry Williams-- and lost the old home place that he had so they had to regroup and start over again. But he also had a mill and used to make- and my dad and his brother took over the mill when Grandpa was no longer able to work in the mill. And they started- it was an old lumber company and I remember when they used to go out in the woods and come in with the big logs and that was an exciting thing. Had a lot of trouble with fires and they brought in a huge- what was the generator called, that big new piece of equipment?

Franklin Williams: This was a long time ago.

Marilyn Williams: I know.

Franklin Williams: And their equipment was not what it is today.

Marilyn Williams: Right. So they went into the corn crate box business and strawberry crates 'cause they were big farmers and strawberry was the big crop. In fact Wallace was known as the Strawberry Capital of the World at one time. And I remember one year that we had a hundred acres of strawberries and we kids worked the strawberries. And of course when we were teenagers were spent a lot of time helping out with passing out the checks for the strawberry baskets when they were picked and then they would load 'em and take 'em to Wallace. And there was platforms at the old depot in Wallace and they would be loaded on the trains and shipped everywhere.

Jones: Now was this on I-70 at the time?

Marilyn Williams: It was on Highway 41. No, it was Highway 41 coming into the west side of Wallace. And then they would load up the produce of all different kinds and they had the platform there and the trains would come through and they'd load up the trains. In fact Franklin and I were just privileged just a few months ago to attend the reconstructed renovated depot in Wallace and they put a museum in there and we've been supportive for that project and are really excited about it.

Jones: Franklin, are you from Wallace too?

Marilyn Williams: Yes, he is.

Franklin Williams: I'm from the other side of Wallace. She lived about four miles west and I was about two miles east. Have you ever heard of Tin City?

Jones: No. Well, I may have.

Franklin Williams: A little farming community about a mile from Wallace and I grew up on a small tobacco farm.

Jones: T-i-n City?

Franklin Williams: T-i-n City.

Jones: Okay, of course 'cause this was what, in the heyday of tobacco growing?

Franklin Williams: This was in the heyday of tobacco.

Jones: Okay. And you grew up on a tobacco farm?

Franklin Williams: On a tobacco farm. Finished high school and I went to work. And then the Korean conflict came up and I was in the Army for about two years, came out of the Army. Wallace was not the greatest opportunity. If you liked Wallace, you had to love it if you were gonna stay there 'cause it was a challenge. And I had a great friend..

Jones: What do you mean it was a challenge?

Franklin Williams: No places for jobs. Their economy was limited. If you was not involved in produce or tobacco, there was nothing to do. Just no jobs. And I had the good fortune of becoming friends with a veterinarian and he lived in Wallace and every time he would get with me, the last thing he would tell me if I was riding with him to make what we called horse calls..

Jones: What are horse calls?

Franklin Williams: Going out to see somebody's sick horse and treating the horse. And I would go with him sometimes. And the last thing he would tell me every time I was with him was, "You got to get an education. You got to get an education." And he pounded that in to the point that it became very irritating and I finally said one day, "Okay, I think I'll go to college." Had no knowledge of what that would entail.

Jones: And what happened then?

Franklin Williams: And I said, "I don't have any money. I can't go to Chapel Hill I'm sure." And he said, "Well, let's just find out."

Jones: Now this was a friend of yours?

Franklin Williams: A friend of mine.

Jones: Was he your age?

Franklin Williams: He was a little older than me, about ten or twelve years older than me.

Jones: Did he have a college education?

Franklin Williams: Yeah, he was a veterinarian.

Jones: He was a veterinarian? Okay.

Franklin Williams: He was a graduate of the University of Georgia in veterinary school and then he had a practice there in Wallace. I don't know how he wound up in Wallace, but he lived there for a long, long time. But anyway, he encouraged me to go to school. And I wrote to the admissions in Chapel Hill and they were on semester system, Georgia was on a quarter system and I had missed the semester system and my GI Bill was gonna run out. So he said, "Come get in the car." So off we go. And he went to visit some friends that had influence at Chapel Hill is what I've always thought. But that didn't work out and so he called the admissions office at Georgia and said that he had somebody that he wanted to recommend and send to the university and that was me. And he did what he wanted to do there and sent me to the University of Georgia to get my education. And while we were there at the university, Marilyn worked for the university in the veterinary school.

Jones: You worked in Georgia at the University of Georgia?

Marilyn Williams: I did.

Franklin Williams: She worked in veterinary school.

Jones: Did you know each other before this?

Marilyn Williams: Well, actually we knew each other. Well, I knew Franklin's family in high school 'cause he was from a family of four boys and one girl. And I was a cheerleader in high school, Franklin played football and I knew of his family. And when I was a senior in high school, we all liked to dance. We had an old- I don't know if you've ever heard of a little lake up near Wallace, it was called Lake Tut. It was a manmade lake and it was the place when we were in high school to go dancing and we used to have a lot of little bands out there. And so Franklin had dated my twin sister once.

Jones: Were you identical twins?

Marilyn Williams: And he loved to dance.

Franklin Williams: No. Not identical.

Marilyn Williams: So he saw- Daddy had gotten a little car for we girls 'cause we lived four and a half miles out in the country and we were all active in plays at the school and cheerleaders and needed transportation back and forth to town so we had a little car that we drove back and forth. And Franklin had seen the little car go by with one of us in it and he wanted a date to go out to the lake. So he called out at the house and he said, "Mrs. Williams, are any of your girls home?"

Jones: You weren't choosy were you?

Marilyn Williams: Right. So she said, "Well, Marilyn is here." So I came to the phone and he said, "Marilyn, I wonder if you would go with me out to Lake Tut to the dance." Well, I said, "Well, yes I would." And the first night I dated Franklin, I thought he was the silliest human being in the world and that he had really wanted to date Carolyn instead of Marilyn. But we had a good time and we started dating then. And he was working at N&W Grocery which was a big wholesaler after he came home from the War. And so he was in town out of high school, they had just returned from the War.

Jones: He had just returned from his stint in Korea?

Marilyn Williams: Right. And he was working at N&W Wholesale which carried him all over southeastern North Carolina. And we started dating.

Jones: So you didn't meet. I mean you didn't really start dating. So you knew each other before.

Franklin Williams: Sort of casual knowing.

Jones: You went to Georgia. Did you know he was going to be at Georgia?

Marilyn Williams: Well, actually when I graduated from high school, I went to the Medical College of Virginia and started out in x-ray technology and discovered I had a little heart problem. At that time, they thought that equipment was too heavy for me to push around and take care of so I didn't complete the course. They thought I should go down another avenue. In today's world, I don't think they would have recommended that because it's turned out that I fully recovered and has never had any more problems with it.

Franklin Williams: It would have been no more than a sneeze today.

Marilyn Williams: Probably not. So anyway, I returned home and was waiting to go to Peace College. I had a scholarship to Peace College. And Franklin and I had been dating. He left to go to Georgia and we had a long-term romance there.

Franklin Williams: Long-distance.

Marilyn Williams: So we decided we were gonna get married.

Jones: So what fascinates me is when did you decide to go down and work?

Marilyn Williams: Oh, we got married. At the end of Franklin's freshman year, we were married.

Jones: Oh, you got married first. You know what? I thought it was too good to be true. Here I'm thinking you go down to Georgia and who should be there but Marilyn?

Marilyn Williams: Right. So I married him and we went to Georgia. And I had a bookkeeping background. You know, years ago when we graduated from high school, we had you could almost set a little career in high school. And in the high school we had in Wallace, it was a great little high school and we had a business- almost like a little business degree. You could take shorthand, typing, bookkeeping, accounting. And when you graduated from high- when I graduated from high school, I was really prepared to take a job. And when we went to Georgia, thank goodness I was. I started working in a bank and then the opportunity came to take a job over at the veterinary school and I managed and ran the pharmacy believe it or not in the veterinary school and Franklin was in pharmacy school. It was the dispensing of the medication that they used in the school working with the animals.

Jones: So you worked in the area. All right, so somebody would have to come up with a chit, give it to you, you'd fill it.

Marilyn Williams: Right. Right. Well, it was not really- well I guess it was sort of like filling a prescription that I would dispense the bottles of medication that they needed or tablets or whatever the professor sent the students over there to get.

Jones: Okay, Marilyn, I'm lost.

Marilyn Williams: Okay.

Jones: You went to the University of Virginia Medical School to be an x-ray technician.

Marilyn Williams: Yes, indeed. Uh huh.

Jones: And that could not work out because of your condition at that time.

Marilyn Williams: Right.

Jones: So you went home.

Marilyn Williams: Yes.

Jones: And you had a scholarship to Peace, but you didn't take it.

Marilyn Williams: That's correct.

Jones: Do you see where I'm going with this? (laughs) So now this one over here encourages you to first marry him and then go to Georgia.

Marilyn Williams: That's correct. That's correct.

Jones: All right. I don't know. I mean what did you go to college for? You seemed to be an enabler of all kinds of things. So anyway, you went to pharmacy school or was it veterinarian?

Franklin Williams: I went to pharmacy school.

Jones: Pharmacy school and encouraged her to take a job dispensing horse pills.

Marilyn Williams: That's right. That's right.

Franklin Williams: That was really a good job that you had.

Marilyn Williams: It was a good job.

Franklin Williams: I should have stayed in that and..

Jones: I think that's a story of itself right there. I'm trying to think how can I get this all down?

Marilyn Williams: So we had some great years at the University of Georgia.

Franklin Williams: Back then it was about a twelve, thirteen-hour jaunt to get from Wallace to Athens.

Jones: I'll bet.

Franklin Williams: There were two-lane roads, not very good ones.

Jones: Did you need a passport to get into Georgia in those days?

Franklin Williams: We were sort of coming of age slowly.

Marilyn Williams: And we lived in- what was the housing we lived in down there?

Franklin Williams: Veterans housing.

Marilyn Williams: Yeah, yeah.

Jones: So you did use your GI Bill then.

Franklin Williams: I did. Had it not been for the GI Bill, I would not have been able to go to school or to college.

Jones: Were you the first one in your family to go to college?

Franklin Williams: I was in my immediate family. I have two cousins who were college graduates and myself.

Jones: But that was the norm then.

Franklin Williams: Oh, it was rare that..

Jones: That was the norm. My husband has lots and lots of relatives who live, many of them in Onslow and Jones County, some in Pender but mostly in Onslow and they've all done very, very well. Those who were of an age had some college, some of 'em. The others didn't. But as they said, for what they were doing it wasn't necessary for their time. They were the first ones. And I heard from so many people that there was a need to work and sometimes they felt like they were wasting their time. They had to stay home and work. But that was changed at the time. Now they kick you out of the house and say, "Go to school," instead.

Marilyn Williams: And, you know, at that time, Carroll, we didn't have all the luxuries that the young people have today. Well, I grew up in a nice home, but I remember back in my grandparents' home it was not running water and they had the pump, the water pump and that kind of stuff. So I was probably about ten when we actually did build a new house. It had running water and toilets and nice bathrooms. And so when we graduated from high school, it was easy to kind of go live in the Veterans housing and make do with what you had.

Jones: And glad to have it.

Marilyn Williams: And glad to have it. And so we got along fine.

Franklin Williams: It was nice. I didn't think I was living as poorly as the reflection seems it was.

Jones: Do you feel too that there was a camaraderie among you and the others that were living the same way and getting an education?

Franklin Williams: Oh yeah.

Jones: And to go on to bigger and better things. There's sort of a comfort in..

Franklin Williams: There was a fair- there was probably fifteen percent of the class in pharmacy school was veterans.

Jones: All right, now this was on the GI Bill, okay. You graduated and then what?

Franklin Williams: I had an opportunity to go to work in south Georgia. And I went and made a visit to the town and to the person that owned that store. And he was actually a member of the Board of Examinations for pharmacists in Georgia, delightful fella. And for some reason, which I've never discovered, he just felt like and made me feel like that I'm gonna go broke if you don't come and work with me.

Jones: What a salesman.

Franklin Williams: The guy was just- he'd convinced me that- the guy was a really scoundrel for not- so I said, you know, "Sure, I'll come here." Well then I went straight back to Athens and told Marilyn that we were gonna be permanent residents of south Georgia. It would not fly.

Jones: What did you want to do, go home?

Franklin Williams: She wanted to go home.

Marilyn Williams: Just back to North Carolina.

Jones: Just North Carolina would be fine.

Franklin Williams: So I called the fella up and I'm sure he's never forgiven me. But we loaded up our U-Haul trailer and came to North Carolina in Jacksonville where I was working.

Jones: At that time, what do you estimate was the population in Jacksonville? This was in the '50s, mid-'50s, something like that?

Franklin Williams: '58.

Jones: '58, okay. So the Marines were established there, but it was a Marine town wasn't it?

Franklin Williams: Oh, it was a military town to the core.

Jones: Really? Yeah.

Franklin Williams: It really was. You didn't go anywhere in Jacksonville that you didn't have to- it makes it sound like I had a problem, but there was no problem, it was just the number of people that was there because the Marine base at that time stayed at full complement I mean by drafting, whatever it took to get 'em.

Jones: Was it as large as it is now?

Franklin Williams: Oh, I think so. I think so.

Jones: Well, you went to your pharmacy work I gather.

Franklin Williams: Right.

Jones: And was that a good business to be in there because my understanding is the military personnel had probably access to military medicine, did they not?

Franklin Williams: They may have, but I was not aware of- because we didn't do any business with the Marine people that were stationed at Camp Lejeune. They had their own sources on the base. And it was a very good town to do business in. But at that time in the life of pharmacy, it was on the threshold of a new day for medicine, whether it was in pharmacy or medicine. We were getting probably- every ninety to a hundred and twenty days we were probably getting a new drug of some sort.

Jones: For any particular types of things or just across the board?

Franklin Williams: Anti-infectives primarily. But it was a very busy time because that was the beginning of- we were well into the process of having medications come to the pharmacist. All we had to do was add water, add some prescription syrup of some sort. You didn't have to do any mixing other than putting water in the bottle, shaking it up, put a label on the bottle and advise whoever's buying it to do whatever they needed to do in taking the medication.

Jones: Franklin, on this subject, were the guiding rules and laws concerning medication and dispensing medication as stringent are they are now or they were more stringent? In other words, today if you have a prescription that's let's say a repeat every thirty days, every whatever and you're a day late, you can't get it unless they have the doctor call in. Doctors' offices call in what, once a day. And also the way today you get medication, they have to know everything you're taking and make you aware this might be counterproductive. I mean I know they do this for a good reason. Was it the same way in 1958?

Franklin Williams: It was nowhere close to what it is now. It was just a different concept. And it was something that you approached in a different way. It was more-- well, the first thing, we didn't have much medicine before the advent of these sulfa drugs, penicillin, those kinds of things. Was just fantastic to know that you had somebody in a home represented by somebody standing there with this piece of paper that says this is a prescription for V-Cillin K. You take a teaspoonful four times a day and you don't drink any water with it or you drink water with it, eat with food or not eat with food and that was about it. It was a great time for human beings really 'cause there was lots of conditions that up to that point that were untreatable so far as taking it and getting well, curing somebody.

Jones: Are you saying that in some conditions there was no cure?

Franklin Williams: Oh yeah. There was a very limited compendia for treating illnesses then. I remember clearly whenever the first diuretic came out, it was a major, major happening in the world of pharmacy and medicine because prior to that time, drugs used to treat urinary conditions were toxic. You couldn't give much of the medicine for fluid for example. I remember it was a common ailment for somebody to come into the store and say granddad or dad or mom or pop has got congestive heart failure. And that thing today is a very easily treated condition and can be treated successfully quickly.

Jones: Were you one of the pharmacists or was this a time where somebody could come in to you and say mom or dad has whatever- consumption I guess. That was a word that covered a multitude of diseases and asked you, could you dispense some remedy without a doctor's prescription to somebody who needed medication right away who was ill or not well?

Franklin Williams: We could not do that. If they wrote a..

Jones: There were no over-the-counter-type bromides or cough syrups or whatever?

Franklin Williams: Well, bromide it's interesting you mention. That was a highly abused drug.

Jones: I imagine.

Franklin Williams: You could look at a person and tell around their lips, cheeks that they had bromide poisoning. And people abused it. I never did taste it experimentally for any reason, but it didn't look very pleasant. You'd mix it up and it would fizz up, you know, bromides.

Jones: Was that the remedy, quote unquote?

Franklin Williams: And you'd be getting that to remedy their situation and you may get worse or something new to you.

Jones: At that time, what would you say from your remembrances would be the most common ailment or condition that you were dispensing medication for?

Franklin Williams: Penicillin-type drugs, sulfa drugs and mostly for children.

Jones: Mostly for children?

Franklin Williams: Children and very old people.

Jones: Have you seen the-I read someplace recently, and I don't know how true this is and I don't have the accurate figures, that over time in the last forty, fifty years let's say, there have been new diseases come about as a result of our environment, what we breathe, what we eat, pressures at work, the environment in the workplace as well. And these new diseases have needed, or ailments, conditions, whatever you want to call 'em, have needed new medication developed for whether it's pulmonary disease, heart disease, whether your eyes are affected, urinary, whatever. You know, we wonder why didn't they exist a long time ago. A doctor explained to me once about one thing. He said, "Well, it used to be that you'd lump a lot of these things under one heading and where you go today to fill out when you go to the doctor a past history, a family history, has anybody had this, this, this and they say, "Well, I don't know."" And I've heard a doctor say they could have, but they called it something else. Have you found that to be true?

Franklin Williams: I'm not sure I understand your question.

Jones: Well, for example, consumption could be tuberculosis, it could be just some guy chewed too much tobacco so he's wheezing, and now we call it something else. Some of the diseases we're familiar with now but they didn't have then or we give them new names or they've advanced because of our way of life.

Franklin Williams: Well, there's a process in chemistry that in order to get here, you got to jump through a lot of hoops and maybe go a roundabout way in order to get here because of one or two things. This is not a compatible situation or either the person that's doing the work with the product is not gifted enough or does not know enough at that time to cause them to be able to go from here to here and to here and each thing is getting better. Cardiac problems, you used to talk about fluid around the heart. The drug that you gave to correct that was a poison. I'm trying to think of the name of that drug. But anyway, the cure was worse than the disease. But it was one of the first drugs, the diuretic, that came out. And as a result of-- Diuril was the drug that came out.

Jones: That's right. I remember hearing about that.

Franklin Williams: And it was a miraculous drug. I mean congestive heart failure, it was just a wonderful, wonderful drug, but it was Diuril. And then the next thing that happened within a year or maybe a year and a half, it came out, the drug Hydrodiuril which was a tremendous advance in the general chemistry of medicine, that product, and it opened doors for other medications. And then you moved from Hydrodiuril to a new family of drugs which was better and more potent. And all this occurred maybe in a four or five-year period.

Jones: How did you as a pharmacist keep up with that? Do you have to go conferences?

Franklin Williams: It was not difficult then because there was not enough- our compendia at that time was a drop in the bucket to what it is now. But you'd go to classes. Most towns- Wilmington for example has a pharmacy association that goes out and gets the drug companies to help them fund and provide classes on different drug products, usually what they're involved in when they're a company. And they send out notices for pharmacists from here to Wallace, Rose Hill to come to that meeting and it's free given by the drug companies.

Jones: They give you samples.

Franklin Williams: They don't give you any samples, but they gives you lots of pads and pens.

Marilyn Williams: And you also have AHEC and..

Franklin Williams: That's a tremendous place.

Jones: What is?

Marilyn Williams: AHEC.

Franklin Williams: Area Health- what is it called? Area Health Education Center?

Marilyn Williams: Education Center over at the hospital.

Franklin Williams: There's a great fella that runs that.

Marilyn Williams: And Franklin's always been very inquisitive about the makeup of the drugs and the effects on the body.

Jones: Well, I'm glad he was.

Marilyn Williams: Always been very, very inquisitive. He's never been a pharmacist that was willing to just dispense and not know more about the drugs.

Jones: Well, I'm glad he was. I'm sure-how long did you stay in Jacksonville?

Franklin Williams: Six months.

Jones: Oh, really? And then you came..

Franklin Williams: Wallace. I was a rolling stone.

Jones: You went back home to Wallace.

Franklin Williams: And that was not the dream. It was not the answer to the dreams that we thought it would be.

Jones: What did you expect?

Franklin Williams: Well, I thought that I would have a place in the business of the pharmacy where I worked and that was not the case in Wallace. They were more cautious. You know, at the pharmacy, they could come in and hang around out in front of the pharmacy counter and you'd go and say, "May I help you?" "Well, I've got this prescription, but I want him," which was the man who owned the store. And he created an environment that was difficult to work in.

Marilyn Williams: I think Franklin felt that a lot of people just felt that they knew him growing up in the community and that he was still little Franklin.

Jones: Oh, you know, that could be.

Marilyn Williams: Yes. And he thought that he would never be able to be the professional pharmacist that he desired to be, that it was gonna take a long time.

Jones: Well, I suppose coming from that kind of a community, I can understand it. I think you get paved and he would probably to this day be known as little Franklin or young Franklin, that little kid.

Marilyn Williams: And we loved being back in Wallace near our families, but then I think that Franklin decided that he just wanted to be more part of a community and more of a professional so we came to Wilmington.

Jones: And how did you feel about this, Marilyn? Were you just a wonderful spouse? You went along with whatever he wanted?

Marilyn Williams: Well, I guess at that point in time, I guess I was.

Jones: Yeah? Good for you.

Marilyn Williams: So he had an opportunity to come to Wilmington.

Jones: What kind of an opportunity was that?

Franklin Williams: It was a..

Jones: And what year was this now?

Marilyn Williams: '58. No, '59. We came to Wilmington in '59.

Franklin Williams: Yeah, our stops have been very brief.

Marilyn Williams: And getting back to Jacksonville, I would say this about it because of the military there, I think the fact that Franklin and I had sort of grown up in a little small town in Wallace and felt very comfortable with everybody and we were fortunate, you know, all our aunts and uncles, and very caring community as we grew up. And when we came to Jacksonville, we had never had any experience with a military community. And at that point in time in Jacksonville, it's changed a lot now because they do have a lot of new people in Jacksonville, they have a lot of business that has come into Jacksonville and they have a lot of people living there now that's a nice community that's not just military. And I remember we would kind of walk around, we'd go for walks and we'd feel like well, how do we meet people in this community? And yet we had moved there as a professional and of course we were Presbyterian and immediately went to the Presbyterian church, but we just didn't feel that that was the type of environment- I was pregnant at the time. We were expecting our first child. And at that point in time in Jacksonville, every time I'd get in the car and would go down and pick Franklin up, there might be a Marine trailing me and it was just not a comfortable environment to live in. So we just decided that was not where we wanted to live to raise our children and we had the opportunity that we thought Franklin was going in business in Wallace. And then we had lived there just a short while when we realized that really wasn't- that we wanted a little more than to be back in our little old hometown.

Jones: You'd traveled a bit by this time.

Marilyn Williams: Yeah, yeah.

Jones: I can understand that. So you came to Wilmington in 1959.

Marilyn Williams: Right.

Jones: Now believe it or not, I came to Wilmington in 1960 for the first time and I thought is this all there is? I was a big city girl.

Marilyn Williams: Yeah. A lot of people felt like that then.

Jones: I know. And I'd been hearing all these stories. And of course as time went on things change and you fall in love with the place. But anyway, so what happened in '59?

Franklin Williams: Well, I came to- Cape Fear Hospital was just beginning. They had been open I think about three years, maybe three or four years.

Jones: The same one that's now over on Wrightsville?

Franklin Williams: It's the same place. And I met some of the staff there, the physicians and the nurses and I just- and they wanted me to help them with the pharmacy in the hospital, not a full-time thing, but doing my regular work at the pharmacy which was adjacent to the hospital. They had some needs in their pharmacy that required a pharmacist to take care of and I was willing to do that. And it was sort of like a volunteer for the hospital and I enjoyed doing that.

Jones: And you worked actually more full-time or got paid for a job across the street. Is that that pharmacy that's still across the street- almost across the street?

Franklin Williams: It's close by. Across the street and four or five houses down.

Marilyn Williams: But not the same building.

Franklin Williams: Right, it's different people in there. And what was..

Jones: You said you were helping out in the pharmacy at Cape Fear Hospital.

Franklin Williams: Oh. And the guy there was paying me more money than I thought had ever been paid a person to work.

Jones: This is at the hospital?

Franklin Williams: No, this was the guy that I was working for, the pharmacy I was working in. And I was just so excited because he had offered me a hundred dollars a week to come there and I'd only worked about two weeks and he came in and said, "Do you know, you are really doing a great job for me. I'm gonna give you a raise." And he raised my pay to a hundred and fifty dollars a week. And I thought, "This is heaven bound."

Jones: In Wilmington that was a decent salary.

Franklin Williams: It was, it was. For me, I didn't realize there was that much money in America.

Jones: And you weren't working at all at this point?

Marilyn Williams: No. I had our first baby. Cathy was just a few months old when we moved to Wilmington. So I was enjoying keeping house and not working and enjoying my baby.

Jones: And six hundred dollars a month.

Marilyn Williams: Yes. And we were living in a house right across from Cape Fear Hospital. There was a house empty and they were able to get that house for us to move in so we moved in that little house. So that was our start.

Jones: Before we go any further, tell me about Wrightsville Avenue at that time. You were living outside the city limits, were you not?

Marilyn Williams: Right. Right.

Jones: And did Wrightsville? Went down to. Okay. And could you take Wrightsville all the way down at that point to- well, I don't know whether they called it Military Cutoff then or whether they called it Oleander or what.

Marilyn Williams: Well, actually it was the name Carter to go to the beach.

Jones: To the beach, that was it.

Marilyn Williams: And of course it crossed over what would have..

Jones: Was the old Shell Road or not?

Marilyn Williams: Old Shell? I think it was.

Franklin Williams: I think that's Wrightsville Avenue.

Marilyn Williams: But I think at the time that we came, it was Wrightsville Avenue and it just went by Airlie.

Jones: Right, but there were farms down there, weren't there?

Marilyn Williams: There were some farms down beyond Cape Fear Hospital between Cape Fear and the beach. There was some farms there because all the houses..

Franklin Williams: And then the farms there where Mayfaire is.

Marilyn Williams: Right, right, yeah, farms out there where Mayfaire was.

Jones: Yeah. So I'm just trying to get a picture in my mind that this was semi-rural in a way, but you were in pig's heaven because he had a job, you had a baby and you found a house and you could put food on the table.

Marilyn Williams: Right. And the Sinclairs and the Mebanes have always been dear friends of ours. You know, they founded that hospital and they just took care of us. And of course we joined Winter Park Presbyterian Church and they were both in Winter Park Presbyterian Church and Dr. Sinclair still is like a friend and a father to both of us. And we were so sad when we lost Dr. Mebane. But they were a big part of our lives in shaping what we did here.

Jones: Like a family?

Marilyn Williams: Right, like a family, like a family.

Jones: So how long did you stay? Did you eventually own the pharmacy?

Franklin Williams: I did.

Jones: Okay. Tell us about that.

Franklin Williams: I was still with Cape Fear. The name of the pharmacy was Cape Fear Pharmacy.

Jones: Which pharmacy are we talking about now?

Franklin Williams: That's the one that was adjacent to the hospital.

Jones: Okay.

Franklin Williams: And there were some problems that I was not aware of at the time I took the job that really was the kind of problems that's typical of, you know, a lot of people, alcohol problems.

Jones: The blue laws were then active here, were they not?

Franklin Williams: Yeah, they had the blue law then. And we realized that that was a situation without remedy because his was a long history of that. And so I started working at two pharmacies. I'd work a week at one and then a week at another. And my salary was about double. So I was, you know, happy as a clam doing the work here one week and then going to work here the next week.

Marilyn Williams: Were you working at Shoe's any at that time? I can't remember.

Franklin Williams: Yeah. Yeah, one week. And then we bought a store which was- is now where the little strip is across the street from the Methodist Church.

Marilyn Williams: In fact there's a tattoo parlor in it now, in the building.

Franklin Williams: And a pawn shop.

Jones: On College Road?

Franklin Williams: College Road between Oleander and Wrightsville Avenue. And actually it's on the corner of Park Avenue and South College Road. And I bought that store. And we were in that store for about six years. Then we moved our location up where CVS is now.

Jones: Which one?

Franklin Williams: It's the corner of Oleander and South College.

Jones: Oh, that one. Okay.

Franklin Williams: And then I decided that I wanted to venture out and become involved in pharmacy, in providing pharmacy services to nursing homes and so I started the business. I sold the pharmacy, the retail pharmacy and opened up what we called institutional pharmacy.

Jones: Now explain that for all of us.

Franklin Williams: That's where you have a person in a nursing home, a doctor visits the nursing home, determines what kind of medication regimen you want on it and sends me that order by either fax or telephone was the most common way at that time. And then we would prepare the medication in a unit dose package and send it out to the nursing home. And then we were involved with the..

Jones: And you did this from- you had sold the store at the corner of Oleander and College where the CVS is now. Where were you working out of or did you still have that then?

Franklin Williams: We still had that and then we opened up- we rented a building in downtown Wilmington. So we were..

Jones: All right, okay. For institutional pharmacy.

Franklin Williams: And interested in moving downtown. It seemed like a neat place to work and..

Marilyn Williams: In fact Franklin was the first pharmacist in North Carolina to apply for a limited institutional pharmacy license. And so he was an entrepreneur in that field of pharmacists.

Jones: You were the first pharmacist and you had to apply for it.

Franklin Williams: Well, instead of getting a regular pharmacy license, because what a pharmacy license does for you is require you to have a pharmacist in your business at all times if you're dispensing medication. If you want to have-- except the time for lunch which you had to have some signage which is true today. There's got to be a sign or a plaque or something in there that says pharmacist off duty or no pharmacist in the facility, something; whereas a limited service permit, we're open from nine to twelve, one to six and we can go and come without any problems.

Jones: Okay, that's interesting. Now you came here in '59. About what time period are we talking about now approximately?

Marilyn Williams: Well, it was about fifteen years of Williams' Pharmacy.

Franklin Williams: Oh, that's right. I'd already forgotten about that again.

Marilyn Williams: Right, about fifteen years of Williams' Pharmacy and then we moved downtown. You see I did have my data here somewhere so we could refer to it. Let's see. We bought Shoe's in '62 and then we moved downtown to Asco Wilmington in '78, 1978. And that's when we went into..

Jones: Where was your property downtown?

Marilyn Williams: It was right behind Tom's Drugstore.

Franklin Williams: It was 25 Market Street.

Marilyn Williams: 25 Market Street. Mr. Wright. In fact there was an article in the paper not long ago about, you know, Tom's is closed. And we were actually a part of that building that he divided into two different buildings. Tom's was in part of it and we were in part of it. They were separated and, you know, there was a wall in there and we had the pharmacy behind Tom's Drugstore.

Franklin Williams: That was a wonderful time. I enjoyed being downtown.

Jones: Well, now that location is, was sort of the hub of Wilmington. You could see anything that's going on.

Franklin Williams: It was exciting to be down there.

Marilyn Williams: And at this point in time, I worked, Iwent back to work with our business and I managed the front of the store, Franklin managed the pharmacy when were in the retail. And so then when we went into institutional pharmacy, we pretty quick saw the need to computerize. And there was really hardly anybody with computers at that point in time, but Franklin- getting into that business at that time, the Federal Government and the State Agencies had gotten involved in overseeing the nursing homes and there were a lot of guidelines and rules and regulations. A pharmacist had to be on staff and his facilities had steel beds 'cause it was like running hospitals in nursing homes. And so Franklin had decided in order to do the job that he wanted to do- that we needed to do the med sheets, the preparation of the medication records for the nurses to dispense the medication. The laws mandated that the pharmacist was responsible for instructing the nurses on the proper dispensing of the medication and it was his responsibility. And we did a lot of work in the nursing homes with the MARs and checking behind the physicians' written orders and the dispensing of the medication so we spent hours and hours doing that. So when we were in downtown, we computerized. And also Tom-- Jerry Harrington was a very good friend of Franklin's and a cohort with that pharmacy-- he decided he would computerize his retail pharmacy. So we got into the computer and that was quite a learning experience for us when we got into that.

Jones: Oh, that was early for computers.

Marilyn Williams: That was very early.

Jones: The problem I guess was not many people had computers.

Marilyn Williams: And they were very, very large. In fact the company out of South Carolina that was formed by a pharmacist that had also gotten into long-term care and saw the need to produce med sheets and doing entirely different kind of work wrote the programs and the software and we had nothing for accounts receivable which was my work in the business. And they would come into our business and send some of their programmers to sit and talk to me and try to help write some kind of program of how we could create the billing process for the nursing homes, the patients, the third-party dealing. And of course at that time, it was not all the complicated insurance billing that we have today.

Jones: All right. I want to go over this because I want you to bring them out this history, of this particular project concerning the computers because this was sort of on the cusp. This was what year, about '78 did you say?

Marilyn Williams: Well, we went downtown in '78. I would think maybe it was probably '80, 1980, something like that.

Jones: 1980.

Marilyn Williams: Around 1980. It might be a year or two give or take.

Jones: Did you have training? You must have had some training.

Marilyn Williams: Oh, well the company that wrote the software.

Jones: Do you remember the company?

Marilyn Williams: QS/1.

Franklin Williams: Yeah.

Marilyn Williams: QS/1 out of South Spartanburg- wasn't it Spartanburg, Franklin?

Franklin Williams: Yeah.

Marilyn Williams: QS/1 out of Spartanburg, South Carolina. And it was a software program that was written by the pharmacist.

Jones: And, okay.

Marilyn Williams: We sent myself, Franklin, a couple of other girls and we had like a week's training in learning how, very..

Franklin Williams: We were at the very beginning of the pharmacy using a computer over a period of about a year. A guy stopped by the store, showed me his product and it was probably half as big as this table, almost a two-man job to move it. Next time I saw him was six months later and it was the size of a shoebox. It was just..

Jones: Well, let's stop here so that Chris can change tapes and then pick up if you don't mind. You can stand up and stretch or whatever.

Marilyn Williams: Okay. (laughs)

(tape change)

Jones: Okay, we took a little break and now we're on tape two. And we're talking about computers, 1980, software, learning how to use it, driving to Spartanburg, South Carolina for training and now we're going to talk about at that early age in the computer world what they used their computers for. Marilyn, you were talking about bookkeeping, using the computers for record keeping, I guess, not bookkeeping but record keeping.

Marilyn Williams: Right, and actually where Franklin saw the need as a pharmacist when we had the retail pharmacy, he started keeping what you call drug profiles of all of his patients, and he did that manually, and every time he would fill a prescription, we would get this card out, he got him a file system, that he wanted to know what his patients were taking, so when he filled a prescription he could look at that drug profile and see. And you correct me if I'm not getting this straight, it's been so long ago. But so with the computer world for us, one of his big responsibilities was any allergies and they began at that early age about drug interactions with one or the other. And so it would give him the profile when he was filling a prescription that he could look at. And of course when we first started using the computers, there was a file for the physicians, a file for the medication, a file for the directions of the drug, all of these separate files in the computer, and you could not go easily from one file to the other, so you'd have to go to one file, then to the doctor file, then to the patient record file and the name of the patient and the direction and it was rather cumbersome.

Franklin Williams: And we were not the only ones trying that either.

Marilyn Williams: To do it. And you could not go from the bookkeeping file to the patient file or the drug file. So it was very complicated to start with and cumbersome I guess I'd say.

Jones: Cumbersome, yeah, that's a good word.

Marilyn Williams: Right, so then we kind of moved along from that and as time went along they were able to program to where one file would interact with the other and you could just split from one file to the other and get the information that you needed.

Franklin Williams: Let me interject. They would bring us a computer, get us all set to work it and then we would buy it, so we were keeping up with them and in six months here comes another. I mean you can just sweep all that first stuff you got into the trash bin.

Jones: Now, here's another question for you. There must've been just file after file after file. How easy was it then to transfer files from one computer to another without having to go back and start all over again?

Marilyn Williams: Well you could have the backups, you know, we had the big, let's see what did we call the first thing, those disks?

Franklin Williams: A floppy.

Jones: A floppy.

Marilyn Williams: The floppy disk, yes, we had the floppy disk to start with and then of course we progressed to the tapes and of course when we first started backing up at the end of the day it would take quite a long while to back up the day's work on the floppies, and then we progressed to where we could back up things at the end of the day on a tape. But another problem that we had with the computer world is the Board of Pharmacy had not really decided how the pharmacists were going to legally use the prescriptions as far as the hard, you know, because we always had hard copy prescriptions that the physicians have written, and we still had a lot of those. And nursing homes would send us those and we had a lot of complicated issues. As long as we were in business we could control substance hard copy prescriptions. Isn't that true?

Franklin Williams: Yeah, it was a problem.

Marilyn Williams: And we would send prescriptions back and forth or would send a courier over to a doctor's office to get him to sign a prescription because we were legally not supposed to dispense some of those controlled substances without the written prescriptions.

Jones: And you liked this job? (laughter)

Franklin Williams: I was beginning to wean off of it.

Marilyn Williams: Well, Franklin really did, he never did like the computer a whole lot.

Franklin Williams: But I did heal a PC, you may also. When we got a zip drive that we backed up with, we all thought we had died and gone to heaven.

Marilyn Williams: Yes, we did, we did, we did.

Jones: Oh gosh, that's a lot of work. Were you ever, did you have to be audited at any time?

Marilyn Williams: Oh, constantly.

Franklin Williams: Oh, we were audited at least twice a year we would get audited by the Medicaid folks out of Raleigh.

Jones: Did the state have? What did you do, have to have a license and other things?

Franklin Williams: I don't remember us ever having the pharmacy people audit us.

Marilyn Williams: We had Medicaid, Medicare.

Franklin Williams: We had controlled substance audits from time to time.

Jones: And when did you retire from all of this? Did you both retire at the same time or did you quit ahead of time or he probably needed you to do the computer.

Marilyn Williams: (laughs) Well, actually what was it, we sold the business about '96?

Franklin Williams: Yeah.

Marilyn Williams: Okay, yeah, we sold the business in '96, but we had left downtown. We loved being downtown but we were just harassed to death with no parking and loading up our vehicles, delivery vehicles at the end of the day, and as we grew we serviced nursing homes outside Wilmington, we had one in Fayetteville, one in Jacksonville, one near Raleigh, and we would send our delivery boys.

Franklin Williams: Edenton.

Marilyn Williams: Edenton. Franklin did consulting work and as we grew and had I thought a pretty good reputation with our business, he moved more into consulting work and hired a couple of pharmacists that he trained. Now pharmacists graduate and they know how to do the consulting work. Years when we started in it, it was a whole new field.

Jones: You were always a team?

Marilyn Williams: Yeah, we were always a team. But I did the last, I finally did have a very good assistant bookkeeper. She graduated the university right here at Wilmington, and she had worked as a pharmacy tech while she was in school here. Debbie Robertson was her name, and I trained her and finally I was kind of coming and going in the business in the last ten years that we had it, kind of oversee the accounts receivable and the Medicare and made sure things were right, but in the every day to day I didn't have to be there, unless somebody was sick and I filled in as a pharmacy tech or whatever was needed.

Jones: Well, I guess you were kind of a good one to have around. (laughter) How was it? Maybe I shouldn't go here. How was it working together, going home together? Certainly there must've been something else in your life, your children?

Marilyn Williams: Yes, yes.

Jones: When did you have time for anything else? Gosh, Franklin, I'm going to get to you and Marilyn you've done so much too separately, but I'm sure you aided him in his political career?

Marilyn Williams: Well, we were able to finally reach a point financially with our business that we could hire, that he could hire a pharmacist, and of course as you know, he got into, we both got into the political field.

Jones: Let's talk about that a little bit. About when was that and how did that come about?

Marilyn Williams: Well, actually I had a neighbor in Long Leaf Hills, Isabel Holmes.

Jones: Was that where you lived at this time?

Marilyn Williams: Yes, Isabel Holmes was my neighbor.

Jones: And what year was this, about what time period?

Marilyn Williams: I'd say in the 1960s.

Jones: Oh, really?

Franklin Williams: Are you familiar with the Isabel Holmes Bridge?

Jones: Yes, I am.

Franklin Williams: It was that same lady.

Marilyn Williams: When was Governor Holshouser, I wrote that down somewhere?

Franklin Williams: Was it '72?

Marilyn Williams: Seventy-two.

Jones: One of the Jims?

Franklin Williams: One of the Jims.

Marilyn Williams: Jim Holshouser. Isabel Holmes was active in Republican politics.

Franklin Williams: She and her husband.

Marilyn Williams: Yeah. At that point I think there was one registered Republican out of 11 or something.

Jones: Probably. Didn't mean they didn't vote Republican though.

Marilyn Williams: Right. My family in Duplin County were hardcore Democrats, my daddy was. In fact, I was one of the teenagers that had a job at the courthouse in the summer because of my dad's affiliation with the Democratic party, but I finally decided, but Franklin had always been a Republican, that we decided that the healthiest thing for the country was a good, strong two-party system, so I decided I was going to get to work and try to help along with him and us building a two-party system in New Hanover County. But anyway, when Isabel was working and I knew her and she talked me into really getting involved in the Holshouser campaign, so that was my first work in the Republican party.

Jones: Now this was you or did both of you do this?

Marilyn Williams: Well, Franklin was mostly busy in the business.

Franklin Williams: I was working more then.

Marilyn Williams: But he was where he could and when he could we would go to events, but the nitty gritty of the campaign. And then it was a wonderful way to campaign. I thoroughly enjoyed it. We could set up card tables up at the shopping centers or they only had their little strip, and register people and talk to people about your candidate and hand out material and now you can't do any of that because people just don't, they won't let you in and so it's really difficult, you know, to do that. They say it's soliciting so it's difficult. But that was my entry into the political arena. And then Franklin was a seat warmer against Bill Smith. I've forgotten what year that was.

Jones: Now when you say seat warmer, explain that. (laughter)

Franklin Williams: You're running when you know you can't win.

Jones: See you have to explain. I've heard a lot of these things but whoever's accessing this may not. I love that, seat warmer.

Franklin Williams: It's just whenever, you know, they say, "Well who's running for state senate?" Well, Carroll Jones. That story would be repeated or could've been repeated for 50 years because whoever you're running against didn't exist, it was a vacant seat. So somebody came up with the idea well let's just run somebody just so they'll know that we're alive and they can't just walk in and walk out and have it handed to them.

Jones: And it's just too bad that we've got some people running right now that you figure. (laughter)

Franklin Williams: We've got four seat runners in the Presidential.

Marilyn Williams: So they tried to talk Franklin into doing that and I said how in the world do you think we can do that with you in the business and I thought that was settled, and I was down visiting my sister in Athens, Georgia and in fact there was a tornado warning, and I remember it so well because we were under her house. They said the funnel was coming over her house. It was pouring rain and the telephone rang. I had a pillow in my hand to go down under my house, here was Franklin calling me from Wilmington and he said, "Well, I just want you to know because I can't do it unless you know it, and I'm on my way down to the Board of Elections with Bart Striv [ph?] and I'm filing and running for the North Carolina Senate against Bill Smith as a seat warmer.

Jones: And what year was this? (laughter) Seat warmer, love that.

Franklin Williams: '70-what?

Marilyn Williams: Oh, it was in, well, we were in Williams Pharmacy on Oleander Drive, it had to be in the '70's.

Franklin Williams: Early '70's.

Marilyn Williams: Early '70's. But you know what? He almost beat Bill Smith. I think it was only about 800 votes. It was amazing, and I don't know what we would've done if he had won.

Jones: Any kin to Fred Smith?

Marilyn Williams: That was Bill Smith.

Franklin Williams: Bill was a local guy, lawyer here in town.

Marilyn Williams: Was a lawyer, lived down on the waterway and had the seat for.

Franklin Williams: Do you know Helen Smith by chance?

Marilyn Williams: Is Helen Smith's husband. Okay?

Jones: That whole picture, that's a TV comedy right there, (laughter) with a pillow under a house and there's a tornado.

Franklin Williams: It's not quite as bad. Whenever they built the houses they built this area under the house for tornados. She was not all that uncomfortable. (laughs)

Jones: Okay, so go on from there. This is just too rich. (laughter)

Marilyn Williams: So now where do we go from here? Let's see, so then we were, we went through that as a seat warmer, but then both of us got involved in the New Hanover County Republican Executive Committee. Franklin was a chairman one year, I was, you know, working in that, and then when Jim Martin, in fact Holshouser was the first Republican governor in a hundred years to be elected in North Carolina. So then, I think it was about.

Jones: Is this the reconstruction?

Franklin Williams: Yes, that was it.

Marilyn Williams: I think so.

Franklin Williams: Senator Russell.

Marilyn Williams: In fact, we saw him at an event in Onslow County a couple of months ago and he still looks great, is still a good speaker and is still doing well. It was wonderful to see him. And then our next political, I guess right now we're concentrating on politics. Is that what we said?

Jones: Well, we're talking about it right now.

Marilyn Williams: Okay, that's what I thought. So the next political event was Jim Martin, we worked real hard in his campaign.

Franklin Williams: Another Jim. (laughter)

Marilyn Williams: Another Jim Martin. And after he was elected we felt, you know, like we were friends with Jim Martin, and he knew us and we knew him. And the first thing that happened, he appointed me to serve as a commission on a battleship, and that was an interesting, very interesting thing.

Jones: Now this was a state commission?

Marilyn Williams: This was a state commission on the U.S.S. North Carolina battleship, and I learned a lot. At the time that I was on the commission, they were doing a lot of erosion studies of how the ship sitting in mud and how it was affecting the bottom of the ship.

Jones: Marilyn, when was this?

Marilyn Williams: Let's see, it was about '84.

Jones: Nineteen eighty-four, okay.

Marilyn Williams: And we traveled, the commission traveled down to Alabama to that ship there and they had been doing a lot of study on it. And so that was an interesting thing for me, and of course the history of the battleship, and Franklin and I had been privileged to be in the Burson Building when the battleship was brought into Wilmington under.

Jones: And you saw it at Arc?

Marilyn Williams: And we saw it at Arc and we saw it berthed over there, which was certainly a very interesting experience for all of us. There was some physician that had an office, you know, all the physicians just about had their offices in the Burson Building downtown at that point in time.

Jones: Now, you were appointed to the commission?

Marilyn Williams: Right, by Governor Martin, mm-hmm. Patrick Dorsey was his secretary at that time that the commission was under. Frank Conlin was the director over there, and so that was some interesting years for us. And then Franklin was appointed to fill a term in the North Carolina Senate.

Jones: About the same period?

Marilyn Williams: Yes, Uh-huh. And then before I think it was about '91, Jim Martin's second term, he appointed me to serve on the Department of Transportation, the DOT Board, and I had six counties that I represented. I traveled all over to all the six counties, and when Jim Martin asked me to do that, I said, "I don't know how to be a road tech, how can I do that?" He said, "Well Marilyn, your job is to be a PR person. You go around and talk to people and represent the board."

Franklin Williams: Put out fires.

Marilyn Williams: And put out fires. So I didn't know what I was going to do with it. I put I think how many miles was it on the car?

Franklin Williams: I bought you a car and you wore it out.

Marilyn Williams: Yes, he bought me a car and that was my cell phone for security. We felt like when I was out on the road traveling, I needed it so that was the first time that we purchased one. And it was a big cell phone in like a little suitcase, and we had that.

Jones: This was in your car?

Marilyn Williams: In my car, mm-hmm, for driving on the road.

Jones: So you didn't have one that was attached to the car?

Marilyn Williams: Right. It was, it was! You could take it out but you took your little suitcase with you. You'd have a little bag.

Franklin Williams: It was a big thing. It was in a little bag.

Marilyn Williams: Uh-huh. It was more the size of a regular telephone. But learned a lot with that job. It was just an unbelievable busy job, but I really learned a lot about southeastern North Carolina and as Franklin used to say when he was in the senate that you really learned that there's rural versus metropolitan, and all the different problems.

Jones: How much time did you have to spend up in Raleigh to do this?

Marilyn Williams: Well, I had to go up there once a month to our monthly board meetings. That was a given. And then if we had any call meetings or like if I had an issue with an area in my district, that I would meet people in Raleigh with the staff, because you'd have to meet with the staff in Raleigh to be able to get projects done.

Jones: This is before I-40?

Marilyn Williams: Yes.

Franklin Williams: I-40 was under construction.

Marilyn Williams: Under construction, and it did open. I did have the chance to use I-40.

Jones: Well when did I-40 open, the 90s right?

Marilyn Williams: Yeah, it was the end, it was in Martin's second four-year term.

Jones: And at the same time Franklin, you are in the senate and how often, how much time would you have to spend alone?

Franklin Williams: A good bit actually. We'd go, there'd be a Monday night session that would take care of local bills, local problems, and I would go up, I would work. I could drive from my office in downtown Wilmington to my office in the legislative building in about two hours and 15 or 20 minutes.

Jones: Really, using just two lanes?

Franklin Williams: Just however, and everybody had a different way to go. And take care of that, and then Tuesday morning it would be regular business.

Marilyn Williams: I think 40 had, this was 1985 and don't you think 40, I think 40 may have been open then. We should remember when 40 was open.

Franklin Williams: Well, I don't think so because I remember being in the helicopter with somebody and they looked out and said, "What is that down there?" And I said to them, "That's where I-40 is." So part of it was built, finished, but it was mostly you know, the on ramps and the off ramps.

Jones: I can't recall, because we'd come down once a year to Wrightsville in the summer after his mother died.

Franklin Williams: I believe that's.

Marilyn Williams: Part of it. I remember we went to Newton Grove to the grand opening to that section and I think you were in the senate when we did that.

Franklin Williams: Right, that's true.

Marilyn Williams: So it was probably part of it was open at that time and then the second part opened.

Jones: Well, it certainly has been a boon, and it's been probably one of the greatest reasons why we've had a boom in population down here.

Franklin Williams: Yes.

Jones: Okay, now you were appointed the first time around, you ran the second time around.

Franklin Williams: I've never been elected to that office.

Jones: You've never been elected?

Franklin Williams: I was appointed the one time. I ran for election and lost the campaign.

Marilyn Williams: In fact, when he ran in that district it was all Democrat, and he only lost it 800 votes, and we ran twice. We ran against Frank Black.

Franklin Williams: I tell people I ran out of money.

Marilyn Williams: Right. (laughs) In fact, this is interesting history, when Franklin ran for that senate seat, was it Garland Garrett, did he run?

Franklin Williams: Frank Block.

Marilyn Williams: I know it was Frank block, but the most that had ever been spent on anybody running for a state office was like $34,000.00.

Franklin Williams: Now that was that particular office.

Marilyn Williams: Right, right, that particular office. And we raised almost $100,000.00. It was a lot of money. And Frank Block outspent us.

Jones: Well, he had his own bank.

Marilyn Williams: Yeah, he did, he did.

Franklin Williams: Spent $140 some thousand dollars.

Marilyn Williams: Right. And then John Coddington ran for that seat but they had changed the district and it was more friendly to Republicans, so then the second time John won, the first time he lost and the second time he finally won it, but they had changed the seat.

Jones: Have you continued to be active in politics in any way since?

Franklin Williams: We've been active ever since.

Marilyn Williams: And still are.

Franklin Williams: Including that period of time, and we still go to, you know, those coffee and tea things.

Marilyn Williams: We're not either one on the executive board right now of New Hanover County, but we support individual candidates and work hard for the candidates.

Jones: What do you see, just your opinion, just your opinion, with the tremendous growth of this area, the makeup of the political parties here or who they're electing and that sort of thing? I don't want to have you be put in a position of saying you disagree with certain things, that kind of stuff, I'm just saying I guess mainly with the growth of Wilmington area, of southeastern North Carolina, do you see a change in the makeup of Republicans, Democrats, voters, non-voters, that sort of thing? Do you think any one has greater sway over any other? The reason I ask, I remember hearing several times, and hearing from my in-laws as an example and certain relatives, it didn't matter how you registered, it mattered how you voted. Of course this was awhile back. And particularly this was so when Barry Goldwater ran, and I never saw anything like it. My husband got out of the Navy that year and we drove east, we raced east to bring the children to see the boss as I call him and Ms. Jones [ph?] and he lectured us about how you vote, and he would never change his registration. And I heard that from a number of people. My daddy would turn over in his grave, but it doesn't mean I'm going to not vote for what I think is the right person. So with that kind of mindset, do you still feel it persists here or do you think that people now want to be associated definitely with one party over another or are they not afraid to say?

Franklin Williams: I immediately want to jump in and say yeah, everything stays the same. People who say they're Republicans vote Republican and people who say they're Democrats vote Democrat, but I don't believe that. But then you look at a couple of our county commissioners and we're going to have to shoot them to get them out of office. (laughter)

Jones: You know, we're friends with two of them and ______ told them just that. He said, "Why don't you retire before I come after you?"

Marilyn Williams: Well, I don't think I hear as much of, I mean it's very obvious, in fact the last that I heard, I don't have the stats with me or really remember, but I think that the Republicans now, don't we have just a few more registered Republicans now than we do Democrats?

Jones: I don't know. I've heard both, but it's a tossup and of course they start doing statistics on various groups: women, single moms, blacks, whites, non-voters, how the young people are going to be swayed. It's mind-boggling, it's totally mind-boggling.

Marilyn Williams: Well I think it is too.

Jones: It's too much.

Marilyn Williams: It's too much information. But I still hear people say, "Oh, he's a closet Democrat."

Jones: But this is definitely not the old south.

Marilyn Williams: Right, no it isn't, and of course we have the influx of all these new people here that's changed a lot of things here, which has been very exciting to us. When Franklin and I moved from Long Leaf Hills over to Pine Valley, it was at the time that GE was expanding, and a lot of GE people were moving in, and our neighbors over there in Pine Valley, all the new houses that were being built at that time on the golf course were mostly the GE employees coming in, and we thought it was like a breath of fresh air. At that point in time in our lives, we had traveled very little, we didn't know very many of the custom even around our country, and it was just, we just loved it, meeting all these people and families and seeing customs and Christmas decorations, different, you know, a little bit different customs that may have been in Wilmington.

Jones: Do you think that you were the average couple who are southerners and live basically most of your lives in southeastern North Carolina except for that stint in Georgia, that you welcomed these people and learned from them, or do you think that you were unusual in being that way or did you find that some of your friends, I've heard that it was a long time accepting new people, a long time accepting a different way of life and mourning for a softer, more tranquil, pleasant business?

Marilyn Williams: I think maybe we were a little bit unusual that we enjoyed them. There was a lot of talk about not liking the changes. What would you say?

Jones: Change is hard for anybody.

Marilyn Williams: Yeah, I think it is too, I think it is too.

Franklin Williams: We used to talk about what we would call the old blue bloods and they wanted to remain the same.

Jones: Well yeah, because it was a form of control.

Franklin Williams: But the people who were coming in here, we realized early on that, you know, they had the same kind of problem we have, same desires that we have, you want a nice place for your family, safe place for your family and good working condition, and GE provided all of that. So we met, became close friends with a number of those folks.

Jones: Can you give a little synopsis now on today, 2008, the new year, do you feel that we've progressed at a normal rate? Are you comfortable with what's happening here? What do you wish might have stayed the same, if there's anything? You both are so progressive in your thinking. And where you see Wilmington going as far as businesses, as far as expansion into Brunswick County, as far as expansion along the river, things like that, building, things like that? Are you against it, for it, do you think it's inevitable?

Franklin Williams: Well I think that if I took it in bits, the idea of development on the other side of the river, I keep hearing people talk about it's going to ruin the skyline, and I'm puzzled by that because there is no skyline except the battleship, (laughter) and we're not going to tow it out to sea. (laughs) Beyond that, I think Wilmington's going to keep growing. And the problem with Wilmington is it's too small for the job that it has to do. What is it, the smallest area in the state with the second or third?

Jones: Highest population.

Franklin Williams: Population density.

Jones: Does this make sense to you? We gleaned out of the last census certain facts that were handed in to us here at the University, the population is well over 100,000, the per capita income is the second highest in the state, the per capita educational level is the highest in the state. We have the highest number of retired Fortune 500 mid and high level executives living here. They may not live her 12 months out of the year but they own property and pay taxes. Of that, the way our medical center is growing, technicians and teaching, that it will rival if not meet both Duke and Chapel Hill. Does that sound reasonable to you, either one of you? Those are just numbers that were thrown out to us.

Marilyn Williams: Oh, I think it does. I mean I think one of the biggest changes that we all have here is we've become global, multicultural, with PPD is a very world market and we just had announced recently that another one is coming in. We're becoming biotech. I used to think of everything biotech being up in the research triangle area, and it sounds like Wilmington is going in that direction too. And I remember the first time I went to New York many years ago as a teenager that people said, "What did you like about New York?" I said, "All the people, all the people walking down the streets, hearing all the different languages and the dress that everybody had." Well, we have that here now, we're multicultural. So I would think with all of the changes in the people and the business that requires in itself different businesses, changes, look at all the restaurants we have. I don't believe there's hardly a food that you can think of that you cannot find a restaurant that you would eat it.

Jones: Would you believe me if I told you that you and Franklin are not the usual southern born and bred?

Marilyn Williams: (laughs) No, I would not believe it, because I thought we were.

Jones: No, there are people who welcome certain parts but they want to hold on. I can understand this. They want to hold on to some of the older ways I think because you hate to lose everything that you grew up with.

Marilyn Williams: Now I'm a lot like that. My house, I'm a pack rat, I have things, I love the history of my family.

Jones: I saw your garage, and that wasn't bad, it was pretty neat. (laughter)

Franklin Williams: We're busted.

Marilyn Williams: But I thought that I was pretty traditional.

Jones: But you welcome all these new things.

Marilyn Williams: Well I do. I think it's an education.

Jones: Which means we've got all new people, which means that we've got building going on all the time. Alright let's talk about--

Marilyn Williams: But I hate to lose, now that's just one side of it, is to whether I think that's going to happen, and yes I think it's going to happen, I think change is inevitable. The people are already here, we don't have the infrastructure to support it. Franklin and I used to boat all the time and camp on Masonboro Island, the water was clean and nice, we never had to worry about it. Too many boats now to do that. Yes, I wish I could go back 20 years and have less boats in the waterway and cleaner water and not have the sewage spills and the trouble that we're having. That side of this yes.

Jones: And what about downtown, do you think that the historic preservation is doing a fairly good job maintaining, saving the buildings they can whether they may be in use, but there doesn't have to be a bar and a restaurant on every open door.

Marilyn Williams: I would hope they could go in another direction at some point. I think, you and I have talked about that.

Franklin Williams: Well, I don't subscribe to having regulations for every kind of business there is. I think downtown Wilmington, it seems like we've spent an awful lot of money to get downtown Wilmington the way it is, and it's just one big bar. But I think that the big plus for Wilmington is the hospital. It is a piece of work that 99 cities out of a hundred in the U.S. would look at it with envy.

Jones: No longer does somebody in Wilmington have to go to Raleigh or have to go to Duke.

Marilyn Williams: That's right.

Franklin Williams: We have some friends who have recently been to Duke and Chapel Hill and I have yet to understand why. I'd like to just ask them why.

Jones: Because that was the thing to do.

Franklin Williams: I guess so. I don't know. I just wonder. But from a structural standpoint, it's a beautiful building.

Jones: Buildings.

Franklin Williams: Right, right.

Marilyn Williams: But the historical district and the preservation of the wonderful, all the different architects and all the homes I think thank goodness, I think the Wright family had, I remember years ago when a lot of those houses were just really going to be torn down and they bought a lot of stuff down there and sort of sat on it.

Jones: Hannah Block is given credit for actually rehabbing the first livable home and actually living in it herself.

Marilyn Williams: And actually living in it. Well, that's nice to know, and I think that's wonderful, and I understand business, that they've had to do something with those buildings and put some people in them in order to keep them there and them not rot down, but I hope that we're at a point now, and I don't know how, because with the advent of the shopping centers in the suburbs and people shopping where it's convenient and not wanting to go downtown and, you know, parking decks are something completely new for us here. I mean when you go to a big city, you just know you're going to park in a parking deck. When we'd come to Wilmington for years, we'd want to drive down and park like we do out at the shopping centers.

Franklin Williams: We want to park in front of the store.

Marilyn Williams: That's right, park in front of the store.

Jones: Particularly at night.

Marilyn Williams: And so people just really have to get used to that. There has to be something down there that makes people want to go bad enough to park in a parking deck and walk down the street and get to it.

Jones: Tony Rivenbark told me recently that, of course you know that they've got that new concert hall coming, that he would like to have a playhouse, a playhouse built sort of like the old English theater in the round like the old Globe Theater, where they could have like opera, where they could have Shakespearean comedies, where the audience and the actors are kind of intermingling.

Marilyn Williams: Is he thinking of something outdoors?

Jones: No, can't do that because of our weather here. And he said that their patron system to the various theaters has grown. I know that with Linda Lavin and her husband Bakunas with the Red Barn Theater, which is just a small theater, and some others. People seem to be going down for some cultural events. The Art League has again moved and got a building as an example. But you're right, Franklin, that's not enough. When I stop to think that coming out of some place later at night and seeing these kids down here barely moving around is a turnoff and it's dangerous. But anyway, you know, it's been interesting, I still say that you people are very forward thinking, you are forward compared to some that I've heard in accepting it. One last thing I want to talk about, and this involves you both, and that is your work for years with the Daughters of the American Revolution, and not just your work on the board or as a committee chairman, but hands-on with various projects and the schoolchildren, making sure that they're aware of the Constitution, still aware, and the Bill of Rights, your work with the veterans, both here and Fayetteville, etc. and you're not alone but the work with the schools, the Tamassee School, etc. and so many other projects. When did you, and I know Franklin that you're involved with Marilyn because you have to be at this point, and you probably are anyway, I know this gives you a lot of pleasure, what would you like to see us as a DAR member complete and really do that we haven't done for that particular chapter? Is there anything we can do, any further we can go? We have a lot of projects, the chapter's growing.

Marilyn Williams: Yes, we do, we really do. Well, I had found my work in the DAR just very fulfilling. I had a great aunt, my granddad's sister, that was Ms. Charles Fisher Taylor and she actually was the organizing regent of the Goldsboro Chapter, which was the David Williams Chapter. I was a Williams and married to a Williams, so this was my father's side of the family and he was a Revolutionary War hero and that chapter was named for him, and so Aunt Rayna [ph?] just instilled the DAR in all of us for many, many years and wanted us all to join and get active. And of course I think at the time that it was really started, a lot of it was just to recognize the people in the families that had fought so hard in the Revolutionary War, and then of course it's evolved into a whole lot of projects. And the thing that I would like to see, I know that I've been in the DAR for 25 years and I was like a whole lot of other women. We have a membership now of 184, and over the years that I worked in our business and had our children and were involved in the PTA and the school projects and all the stuff that was going on and went through the race riots with the children, and you know, so many things that we went through here in Wilmington with our children and certainly did not have the time to get involved in DAR. And finally the time did come that I had time to devote some time to it, and I do enjoy it, and I would like to see more of our women be interested in going to Washington and seeing our Constitution Hall and seeing really our museum and more education of what our DAR really and truly is all about. And of course I think in order to get women to be willing to give their time to do projects like that, to go and take their time and spend their money to go to Washington and see things, they have to get involved in our local projects to learn more about the organization. And I think that right now with our organization, which we're one of the largest in the state, and we seem to have grown so fast, I don't think anyone has really understood why we have had so much interest. There are a lot of chapters across this U.S. that really have a lot of trouble finding any new members for DAR, and it seems like that our chapter in Wilmington, and it may be because we're growing so and we have so many new people coming in and retirees that are interested in getting involved in it, but we do not seem to have any problem getting new members in our organization right now, but I do think we really need to educate these people. I guess my real emphasis right now with the organization would be to educate our members and certainly I'm very excited, we are on the threshold of establishing a scholarship here at UNCW and we have met with Mr. Clements, Vista and I have met, our regent, and this is something that we have worked on since we had a big fundraising project several years ago and have the money now ready to go, and we've wanted that money to draw enough interest that we could get to a point to start a scholarship, so we're excited about that. And I am excited about the schools. Franklin and I spearheaded a project when Dotty Martin was our first lady of the state. It was a national project on how to get your kids through adolescence drug-free, and we brought that project into Wilmington, Franklin involved all the pharmacists, we went through the counselors in the school, we trained people to teach the program, we partnered with Cape Fear Community College, the videos and everything were stored.

Jones: This project was how to get your children through?

Marilyn Williams: Through adolescence drug-free, it's a national project. And the tapes and all of our stuff was stored at the library at Cape Fear Community College. Franklin was on the board of Cape Fear Community College and chairman of the board I think at that time, and so it was just a natural fit for us to work with Cape Fear Community College at that time. And we went into the schools then and worked with the counselors and worked with a lot training the counselors and all. So we have always had an interest in our schools and our love, so I think it's a wonderful thing that we do into the schools and set up and teach our Constitution, because I think that we need to do that.

Jones: I agree with that.

Marilyn Williams: Now I don't know. So that's one thing. And we've just got so many areas that we have, these schools that we're interested in and work with all the time, and the veterans at Ashley Center here, and in fact I was talking to someone over there yesterday and that program is still a program cosponsored with the Veterans Administration, and they are very pleased with it and the accomplishment, the success rate, and I just think we're very fortunate. I did ask them yesterday if they'd had any of the veterans yet from the Iraq War, and they have not, so far we don't have any of the homeless veterans over there. And these people are not, they are highly screened when they go in to that veterans center, they have to go by the guidelines, no drugs, no alcohol. Some are there as a result of alcohol or drugs, broken families, various and sundry reasons, they just can't afford to live somewhere and pay rent, and their goal and success rate of getting these veterans jobs and back into the community has been very great. So that's certainly something I want to continue to work with, and maybe we can do more at some point than just Christmas presents and stockings and that sort of thing. So maybe we can explore that a little more.

Jones: Well, you two are both very community oriented or state or just public I will say, public awareness and involved, you've done so much. I know you're going to continue the DAR. I'm dying to ask a question but I can't. (laughter) I can only guess, which is, no matter what you're going to be around for a long time, and Franklin, I think it's great to see a husband-wife team who can still look at each other, during this conversation you've both done it a number of times, say "Is that right?" (laughter) and you don't see that too often, and you've been together so much of the time. I imagine you still have things to talk about and new.

Marilyn Williams: Fifty-two years, we've been married 52 years.

Jones: That's wonderful. To the same people. Goodness sakes!

Marilyn Williams: To the same people, to the same people.

Jones: I know, that's wonderful.

Franklin Williams: It's getting pretty boring. (laughter) Somebody asked me just in the last ten days, I've forgotten where I was or what, I said "Well, I've been married 50 some years," he said, "Boy, you must be bored stiff." (laughter)

Marilyn Williams: Well one thing we did since retirement was bought an RV and traveled for about eight years across the U.S. and we really enjoyed that. Franklin had driven those big N&W wholesale grocery trucks when he was young, so he felt he could handle the RV.

Jones: Now was this a trip, every stop was planned or did you just take your time and if something looked interesting, you could stop?

Franklin Williams: Well, it's about 50/50 because I like to know when the sun goes down (laughter) that I've got a post I can tie to.

Jones: Okay, I can understand that.

Franklin Williams: So I didn't do a lot of just hoping there would be something. I did some of it, but it was a fun thing.

Jones: I think you're fortunate to do that.

Franklin Williams: It was really nice, and we had a nice motor home, so that helped make it a good thing.

Jones: Well, that's great. Did you go all the way across one route one way and one route another?

Franklin Williams: Well, we went here to San Diego and then we went down to Baja all the way to the tip, came back out of that, went up into the midwest, Montana, did some sightseeing out there, went to Yellowstone, then we came back across the country, went up into Canada. We went to-

Jones: Was this all in one trip?

Franklin Williams: Oh no, this is a year at a time. And we went into Canada, eastern provinces, so it was a fun thing to do.

Jones: Well, I think it would be too. You've had a good life.

Marilyn Williams: Yeah.

Jones: And you're not finished.

Marilyn Williams: No. (laughs)

Jones: Thank you so much for coming and spending time with us. This has been fun, it's been interesting, and I want to suggest that anybody who thinks that they're bored with marriage watch this. (laughter) You two can certainly give a course on how to keep smiling.

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