George Washington Watts

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George Washington Watts
Born (1851-08-18)August 18, 1851
Cumberland, Maryland
Died March 7, 1921(1921-03-07) (aged 69)
Durham, North Carolina
Residence Durham, N.C.
Manhattan, New York City
Education University of Maryland (1871)
Occupation Banker, Manufacturer, Philanthropist
Organization Home Savings Bank (co-founder)
Durham Loan & Trust Company (co-founder)
Home Security Life Insurance Company (co-founder)
Erwin Cotton Mills
Spouse(s) Laura V. Beall (1875-?)
Sara Virginia Ecker (1917-1921)
Children Annie Louise Watts
Parents Gerard Snowden Watts and Ann Elizabeth Wolvington

George Washington Watts (18 August 1851 – 7 March 1921) was an American manufacturer, financier and philanthropist. Alongside James B. Duke, he co-founded the American Tobacco Company, as well as Watts Hospital, the first hospital in Durham, North Carolina, which prompted the establishment of Duke University.


Born in Cumberland, Maryland George W. Watts was the son of Gerard Snowden Watts and Ann Elizabeth Wolvington. He received his early education in private schools in Baltimore and graduated from the University of Maryland in 1871 with a degree in civil engineering.[1] After graduation, Watts joined his father's tobacco commission business in Baltimore. Becoming associated with Washington Duke of Durham, North Carolina in 1878, he helped organize and incorporate W. Duke Sons and Company, a tobacco business in which he became a stockholder and secretary and treasurer. In 1890 Watts helped to organize the American Tobacco Co. and in 1892 the Erwin Cotton Mills Company. Watts became one of the largest textile mills in the US Interested in the total welfare of his employees, Watts built libraries, parks, and playgrounds for them. He also built and endowed Watts Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. Among his other business involvement, Watts was president of the Pearl Cotton Mill at Durham, North Carolina, the Home Savings Bank and Trust, vice-president of the Locke Cotton Mills of Concord, North Carolina, a director of the Seaboard Air Line, the Durham and Southern Railway Company, the Virginia-Carolina Chemical Company, the Southern Cotton Oil Company, and the Fidelity Bank and Durham Loan & Trust Company, which he co-founded with his son-in-law, John Sprunt Hill. Watts was elected the first president of the Commonwealth Club of Durham, which made possible the transportation facilities required to make that city a prosperous and commercial center. Watts married twice: in 1875 to Laura V. Beall, who bore him one child, Annie Louise Watts; and in 1917 to Sara Virginia Ecker.

Watts Hospital Legacy[edit]

Duke University[edit]

By 1922, Watts Hospital's quality of care and its philanthropic mission to provide healthcare to the working poor was so well-regarded that James B. Duke and North Carolina Governor Cameron Morrison proposed the creation of the state's first four-year medical college, Duke University, to educate students in conjunction with clinical services provided at Watts Hospital.[2]

Watts School of Nursing[edit]

In addition to founding the clinical hospital, George Watts also established the Watts Hospital Training School for Nurses at the hospital, in 1895. Renamed the Watts School of Nursing (Watts SON) in 1976, the school's first graduate, Ethel Clay, received her nursing degree in 1897.[3]

Now part of the Duke University Health System, Watts SON has been housed at Durham Regional Hospital since 1976.


  1. ^ The Watts Family. Washington, D.C.: American Genealogical Research Institute, Heritage Press, Inc. 1975. p. 77. Retrieved 2010-05-13. 
  2. ^ "DSpace@DukeMed - Item 2193/283 - Watts Hospital". Duke University Medical Center Archives. 2005-11-10. Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  3. ^ "History of the Watts School of Nursing". Duke University Health System. Retrieved 2008-06-13.