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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George Watts Hill, January 30, 1986. Interview C-0047. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Accomplishments, success, and public service

Hill reflects back on his life and his achievements. According to Hill, both public service and serving one's own business interests were crucial to being well-rounded and having "fun," as he says he's done throughout his life in his work and life endeavors. In addition, he talks about qualities for success in business.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George Watts Hill, January 30, 1986. Interview C-0047. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JAMES LEUTZE:
Mr. Hill, we've talked chronologically about your background, your childhood, you're college career, your ten months trip, your getting started in business, and we talked about your father, your family, his impact on you life. Then we talked about your World War II experiences, we talked about your business career, your career in the university. Today, I'd like to talk about you, in a sense, and how you look at things. I'm thinking of someone writing your biography, the kind of things that they're going to want to know after they look at the facts of where you were at what time, what your position was, and where you went next. I'm interested in you and what makes you tick and how you think. Let's start by my asking you, in looking across your life, what are you most proud of when you look across the accomplishments that you have had? What makes you most proud and happy of your accomplishments?
GEORGE WATTS HILL:
Three things. The results of the presidency of the Board of Trustees of Watts Hospital, the thirty-five years carrying on the work that my grandfather started and my father continued for a short while. Second, the Research Triangle program and its essence, the organization and the idea, the technical, legal approach, and basically the Institute rather than the Foundation itself. The Institute is the key element, not so determined by the general public or certainly by the officers of the Foundation, but my knowledge indicates that it is the key to the Research Triangle program over all. Third, the Learning Development Center, now a component part of Durham Academy, in which . . . "learning disabled" is a general term for the kids, and I've been amazed at the reaction of parents that have come to me for this, that, and the other, almost inadvertently - their appreciation of the organization, now limited to seventy-five, max, pupils - how appreciative they have been for a maximum of two years service. It's gone on now for seven years, and I'm building an addition, a modern building to house the older students, and we're working toward putting in six computers to meet the modern approach. Instead of a quiet room where the teacher could talk with the learning dyslexia and so forth, it now will be three computers here and three computers there. The older students will write very poorly, normally, but they will put it on a computer with a word processor. This is an afterthought of a new head of Learning Development Center, and it's been a component part of Durham Academy and is doing a remarkable job. I say those three more than anything else.
JAMES LEUTZE:
Let's take these three and consider them for a moment. They fall broadly in the area of public service, it seems to me. What about making money? You're a businessman.
GEORGE WATTS HILL:
I'm not interested particularly. Except for the fact that I could have made more money if I had speculated and done this, that, and the other thing and so forth. The salary that I get from the bank is nominal. I should get fifty or a hundred thousand dollars, but I get ten. What the hell. I have a good stock ownership in the bank and, as Bill Burns said, the bank had made a rich man out of him. He was going to resign six or seven years ago, but he can't afford to resign with the salary, the bonus, the god knows what all emoluments that he gets as president. I don't blame him. I wouldn't either under the circumstances. No, the making of money - I inherited properties, some, and some I bought. Take the bank stock: two years ago it was selling for twenty-four; it's selling today for forty-five. It's crazy. My wife wanted to buy some stock in the bank at thirty. I said it's too high. I don't know.
JAMES LEUTZE:
But in the great scheme of things, I'm trying to think of the way you would talk to your grandchildren or to a young person you are trying to advise. What things would you tell them were important?
GEORGE WATTS HILL:
Doing a good job, both for yourself and for other people. It's a combination. It's neither one nor the other. I think public service is a good term. Leave the world a little bit better than when you came into it as you go out. Things are transitory. I've had a lot of people thank me for this, that, and the other, that I didn't know anything about. Apparently things I had indirectly touched, not directly. But working with a bank has been a lot of fun because, as I have said earlier at some time, my father and I had made eighty-three loans to churches. Well, that hadn't been done for fifteen years. I haven't had any part in it; I'm not a loan officer. But the influence that I've had in the bank has been a value to the bank in my judgment. Maybe I'm crazy. I'm known in Durham as Mr. Central Carolina Bank. Somebody said, "Well, they're trying to throw you out." I said, "Well, let them try." I'd love to get into that kind of a squabble. I'm eighty-four, going toward eighty-five, and I'm having fun.