Title: Oral History Interview with George Watts Hill, January 30, 1986. Interview C-0047.
Interviewer: Leutze, James
Interviewee: Hill, George Watts
Subjects: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Research Triangle Park (N.C.) Banks and banking--North Carolina
Abstract: George Watts Hill, born in 1901, spent most of his childhood growing up in Durham, North Carolina. In 1918, Hill attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He describes what life was like in that community during the early twentieth century. Hill left UNC in 1924 after finishing both a bachelor's degree and a law degree. After his marriage and subsequent ten-month honeymoon trip through parts of Asia and Europe in 1925, Hill returned to Durham, determined to continue in the footsteps of his father and his grandfather, both of whom had by that time become pillars of the business community in Durham. Hill describes how his family was responsible for the building of two hospitals in Durham and his father had begun to make a name for himself in banking, having established the Durham Loan and Trust Company (which later became Central Carolina Bank). Because of his perspective from a position of business leadership, Hill is able to offer a unique description of the development of Durham as a center of commerce during the early twentieth century. He describes the roles of various leaders in the area, such as C. C. Spaulding and members of the Duke family, and he discusses the impact of the tobacco and textile industries on the community's growth. During the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s he pursued various business endeavors, notably in insurance and banking. He helped to found various insurance organizations in Durham, paving the way for the establishment and growth of North Carolina Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Simultaneously, he worked with his father to build their banking enterprises, and when the stock market crashed in 1929, they were in a position to offer loans to smaller banks, thus ensuring their economic survival. During World War II, Hill left North Carolina in order to work for the Office of Strategic Services. When he returned in 1945, he picked up his business endeavors where he had left off. To those efforts he added further forays into land and business development. During the 1950s, he was a prominent figure in the development and rapid growth of the Research Triangle Park. In addition, he tried his hand at dairy farming. Throughout the interview, Hill focuses on descriptions of business leadership and formulas for economic success. He also addresses such issues as balancing work and family, the importance of public service (such as his work with the UNC Board of Trustees), and changing ways of life in Durham and its surrounding areas.