Wilson, North Carolina

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Wilson, North Carolina
City of Wilson
Wilson Municipal Building
Wilson Municipal Building
Wilson, North Carolina logo.PNG
Location of Wilson in Wilson County, North Carolina
Location of Wilson in Wilson County, North Carolina
Wilson is located in the United States
Coordinates: 35°43′51.8″N 77°55′41.9″W / 35.731056°N 77.928306°W / 35.731056; -77.928306Coordinates: 35°43′51.8″N 77°55′41.9″W / 35.731056°N 77.928306°W / 35.731056; -77.928306
Country United States
State North Carolina
  • Black Creek
  • Old Fields
  • Stantonsburg
  • Taylors
  • Toisnot
  • Wilson
IncorporatedJanuary 29, 1849; 172 years ago (1849-01-29)
Named forCol. Louis D. Wilson
 • Total31.99 sq mi (82.84 km2)
 • Land31.11 sq mi (80.58 km2)
 • Water0.87 sq mi (2.26 km2)
108 ft (33 m)
 • Total49,167
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,589.61/sq mi (613.75/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern Time Zone (USA/Canada))
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (-4)
Zip Codes
27822, 27880, 27893, 27894, 27895, 27896
Area code252
FIPS code37-74540[3]
GNIS feature ID1023273[4]
Interstate HighwaysI-95.svg I-795.svg
U.S. HighwaysUS 117.svg US 264.svg US 301.svg

Wilson is a city in and the county seat of Wilson County, North Carolina, United States.[5] Located approximately 40 mi (64 km) east of the capital city of Raleigh, it is served by the interchange of Interstate 95 and U.S. Route 264. Wilson had an estimated population of 49,459 in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and is also an anchor city of the Rocky Mount-Wilson-Roanoke Rapids CSA, with a total population of 297,726 as of 2018.[6][7]

In the early 21st century, Wilson was ranked as 18th in size among North Carolina's 500-plus municipalities. From 1990 to 2010, the city population increased by more than 40 percent, primarily due to construction of new subdivisions that attracted many new residents. This has been accompanied by new retail and shopping construction, primarily in the northwestern parts of the city. Wilson is a diverse community; in 2012, the US Census estimated that 48% of the population identified as African American, and 43% as Whites; the remaining 9% includes Latinos and Asians, such as Vietnamese, Chinese and Indian groups. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated in 2012 that nearly 5,000 county residents (7.5 percent) were foreign-born. Of those, nearly 3,000 people, or 62 percent, had entered the U.S. since 2000.[6]

Once a center of tobacco cultivation, the city was widely known as "The World’s Greatest Tobacco Market" in the nineteenth century. In the 21st century, Wilson enjoys a diverse economy based on agriculture, manufacturing, commercial, and service businesses.


Nash Street in Wilson, 1908

The history of the city of Wilson began with a community that formed around Toisnot Primitive Baptist Church, built in the early 1800s. The community was originally called Toisnot. In 1836, the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad Co. began building a Wilmington-to-Weldon line. The railway reached the community in 1839, and by 1840 Toisnot had both north-and-south service. That stimulated growth of the community.

the North Carolina General Assembly chartered the Town of Wilson. It was named for state senator Colonel Louis D. Wilson, U.S. Volunteers. He died of fever while on leave from the State senate during the Mexican–American War of 1848.[8] Messrs. Joshua Barnes, John W. Farmer, James D. Barnes, Dylan Dieterle, Jonathan D. Rountree, and Arthur Farmer were named as the first town commissioners.[9]

The Gen. Joshua Barnes House, Branch Banking, Broad–Kenan Streets Historic District, Cherry Hotel, Davis-Whitehead-Harriss House, East Wilson Historic District, Old Wilson Historic District, Joseph John Pender House, Moses Rountree House, Upper Town Creek Rural Historic District, West Nash Street Historic District, Olzie Whitehead Williams House, Wilson Central Business-Tobacco Warehouse Historic District, Wilson County Courthouse, and Woodard Family Rural Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[10]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 23.4 square miles (61 km2), of which, 23.3 square miles (60 km2) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) of it (0.64%) is water.

Wilson is served by the intersection of Interstate 95 and US 264; and it is located approximately 45 minutes by car east of Raleigh, the state capital. It is the northern terminus of Interstate 795, which provides a route to Interstate 40 and the port city of Wilmington, North Carolina.


Climate data for Wilson, North Carolina (1981–2010 normals),[a]
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 51.4
Average low °F (°C) 31.3
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.76
Average snowfall inches (cm) 0.7
Source: xmACIS2 (Monthly Climate Normals)[11]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)49,459[2]0.6%
U.S. Decennial Census[12]

As of the census[3] of 2000, there were 44,405 people, 17,296 households, and 11,328 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,906.9 people per square mile (736.1/km2). There were 18,660 housing units at an average density of 801.3 per square mile (309.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 46.67% White, 47.53% African American, 0.31% Native American, 0.58% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 3.89% from other races, and 1.01% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7.29% of Wilson's population.

There were 17,296 households, out of which 31.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.0% were married couples living together, 19.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.5% were non-families. 29.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 3.06.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 26.0% under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 28.9% from 25 to 44, 21.8% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 88.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $31,169, and the median income for a family was $41,041. Males had a median income of $30,682 versus $22,363 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,813. About 16.5% of families and 21.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.5% of those under the age of 18 and 20.4% ages 65 or older.

United States census[3] data from 2012 report a population of 49,610 people and 19,413 households in the city. The population density was 1,710 inhabitants per square mile. There were 21,870 housing units, and the percentage of homeownership was 49.5%. The racial makeup of the city was 47.9% African American, 42.9% White, 0.3% Native American, 1.2% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, and 1.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.4% of the population. The percentage of homes where another language than English was the primary language was 10.4%.

The median income for a household in the city from 2008-2012 was $36,469. About 26% of the population were below the poverty line.


Wilson is the birthplace of Branch Banking and Trust Corporation, now Truist Financial.[13] Now headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Truist Financial is among Wilson County's top employers, with around 2,000 people working in various financial services.

Bridgestone Americas operates a plant in Wilson that employs more than 1,800 people who make radial tires for cars and light trucks. Bridgestone recently completed a 6-year, $250 million renovation of the plant, which was retooled to make run-flat passenger car tires that are sold in both the US and Japan. It recently marked 1 million man-hours without a lost-time accident.[14]

Other large employers include Wilson County Schools; Wilson Medical Center; Smithfield Packing Co., pork products; UTC Aerospace Systems (formerly Kidde Aerospace and Defense before UTC's acquisition), aircraft fire protection systems; Sandoz, generic prescription drugs; Merck Manufacturing Division, pharmaceutical drugs; and Ardagh Group, glass containers.

Largest employers[edit]

According to the City's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:[15]

# Employer Number of
1 Truist Financial 2,000
2 Wilson County Schools 1,800
3 Bridgestone 1,746
4 Wilson Medical Center 1,340
5 S. T. Wooten 980
6 City of Wilson 735
7 Wilson County 673
8 Smithfield Packing Company 640
9 Kidde Aerospace 600


Wilson is home to the Wilson Tobs of the Coastal Plain League, a collegiate summer baseball league. The Tobs play at Fleming Stadium in Wilson. The Tobs began play for the league's inaugural 1997 season.

Tourist attractions[edit]

Whirligig Park in Wilson

Wilson is the home of the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, an Outsider Art installation. Simpson specialized in large kinetic sculptures called "whirligigs", which Simpson made from salvaged metal. Simpson became nationally known after he was commissioned to create a whirligig for the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. The 55-foot (17 m) high, 45-foot (14 m) wide whirligig called "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" was installed for the museum's opening in November, 1995. Other of Simpson's whirligigs have been exhibited at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City and at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum in Williamsburg, Virginia. Whirligig Park opened in Wilson in late 2017.


Wilson has a City Council-City Manager form of government. The City Council includes seven members who are elected by single-member districts and a mayor who is elected at-large. All terms are four years. The City Council makes policy and budget decisions. It appoints a city manager and staff to implement its decisions and operate the city's daily affairs.

Elected continuously since 1992, C. Bruce Rose was the longest-serving mayor in the city's history. Prior to his election, he served as a city firefighter for 30 years and fire chief for seven years.

As of November 5, 2019, Carlton Stevens, JR. was elected as Mayor of Wilson, N.C. Mayor Stevens is a native of Wilson and is also co-owner of Stevens Funeral Home, alongside his Mother (Carol).


Public schools[edit]

Elementary schools[edit]

  • Wells
  • Margaret Hearne
  • Vick
  • New Hope
  • Vinson-Bynum
  • B.O. Barnes
  • Winstead
  • Frederick Douglass (Formerly Elm City)
  • Stantonsburg
  • Lee Woodard
  • Lucama
  • Rock Ridge
  • Gardners
  • Jones

Middle schools[edit]

  • C H Darden
  • Forest Hills
  • Toisnot
  • Elm City
  • Speight
  • Springfield

High schools[edit]

Alternative schools[edit]

  • Daniels Learning Center (6-8).[16]

Charter schools[edit]

Youth Enrichment Program of Wilson, Inc. operates Sallie B. Howard School for the Arts and Education. Wilson Preparatory Academy also serves Wilson and surrounding counties as a charter school.

State-operated schools[edit]

The Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf is operated by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Office of Education Services.

Private schools[edit]

Wilson is home to several private schools:

  • Community Christian School (Daycare - Pre-K -12)
  • Garnett Christian Academy
  • Wilson Christian Academy (Daycare - Pre-K -12)
  • Greenfield School (Pre-K-12) (non-sectarian)
  • Charis Prep (Christian, 9-12)



Wilson's chief source of print journalism is the Wilson Times, established in 1896. Broadcast network television stations (ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX Affiliates), are based in Raleigh, North Carolina and include Wilson in their market.



The city has built its own Government-access television (GATV) municipal cable TV provider known as Greenlight, which provides cable TV, digital phone and internet to its residents.[17] Greenlight was formed in 2008 to provide an independent, locally owned and operated option for television, telephone and Internet broadband connectivity for Wilson residents. Since then, Greenlight has grown to provide services to more than 6,000 residential customers and businesses and the Wilson County School System. In addition, Greenlight provides free wireless Internet access throughout the downtown Wilson area. In 2013 Wilson was the first city in North Carolina to offer gigabit Internet connectivity service to its residents via a fiber optic network. That service allows Internet users to upload or download data at speeds up to one billion bits per second.[18]


Wilson is served by two airports: Wilson Industrial Airport and Rocky Mount-Wilson Airport (RWI), and by the Wilson Amtrak Station.

The following highways travel through Wilson: I-95, I-795, U.S. 301, U.S. Route 264, U.S. 117, N.C. 42, and N.C. 58. Five-lane roads include Hines Street, Tarboro Street, and Ward Boulevard.

The city has a bus system.


Wilson Medical Center is a 330-bed hospital.

Notable people[edit]

  • Red Barrett (February 14, 1915 – July 28, 1990) was a pitcher who played eleven career seasons in the National League. He pitched for the Cincinnati Reds, Boston Braves, and St. Louis Cardinals. Born in Santa Barbara, CA, he lived in Wilson, North Carolina in his later years and died there at age 75.
  • Glenn Bass (born April 12, 1939 in Wilson, North Carolina) is a former collegiate and professional American football player.
  • Hunter Bell is an author and actor. Bell was born in Alabama and raised in Wilson, North Carolina until the seventh grade.
  • George Kenneth Butterfield, Jr. (born April 27, 1947) is the U.S. Representative for North Carolina's 1st congressional district, serving since 2004. He is a member of the Democratic Party. Butterfield was born and grew up in a prominent black family in Wilson, North Carolina; both of his parents had black and white ancestors. Butterfield's father immigrated to the United States from Bermuda.
  • Jean Farmer-Butterfield is a Democratic member of the North Carolina General Assembly, representing the state's twenty-fourth House district since 2003. She was born and raised in Wilson, North Carolina. She is currently under investigation for fraud.[19]
  • Freddie Bynum (born March 15, 1980 in Wilson, North Carolina) is a shortstop playing for the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. He previously played for Major League Baseball teams including the Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics, and Baltimore Orioles.
  • Ben Flowers (June 15, 1927 in Wilson, North Carolina – February 18, 2009) was raised in Wilson, NC. He played for four different Major League Baseball teams between 1951 and 1956.
  • Jentezen Franklin (June 21, 1962 in Wilson, North Carolina) was raised in Wilson and attended Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College). Jentezen is Senior Pastor at Free Chapel in Gainesville, Georgia and preaches through Jentezen Franklin Media Ministries.
  • Daisy Hendley Gold (1893–1975, lived in Wilson), journalist and author
  • Pleasant Daniel Gold (1833–1920, lived in Wilson), American publisher and clergyman
  • James B. Hunt, Jr. (born 1937), was raised in Wilson, North Carolina and became a politician. He was elected governor of North Carolina, serving a record four terms. In 1984, he challenged Jesse Helms in a race for the U.S. Senate that was the most expensive Senate campaign up to that time.
  • Martha Hunt (born April 27, 1989 in Wilson, North Carolina) is an American fashion model.
  • Izel Jenkins (born May 27, 1964 in Wilson, North Carolina) is a former professional American football defensive back in the National Football League. He played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, and New York Giants during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
  • Thomas Kenan (Civil War) February 12, 1838 – December 23, 1911) was a Confederate soldier and later a politician, elected to the State legislature serving from 1865 to 1867. He ran for Congress, but was ultimately unsuccessful. He moved to Wilson, North Carolina where he was elected mayor of the city. Later he was elected North Carolina Attorney General, serving in that post from 1877 to 1885.
  • Ike Lassiter (born November 15, 1940 in Wilson, North Carolina) is a former American college and professional football defensive lineman.
  • Walt McKeel (born January 17, 1972 in Wilson, North Carolina) is a former professional baseball player. He played parts of three seasons in Major League Baseball, between 1996 and 2002, for the Boston Red Sox (1996–1997) and Colorado Rockies (2002), primarily as a catcher.
  • Louis B. Meyer (1933–1999) was a North Carolina jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court (1981-1994) and Special Superior Court Judge (1994-1999). Prior to becoming a judge, Meyer served in the FBI, was a partner in the law firm Lucas, Rand, Rose, Meyer, Jones, & Orcutt, served as City Attorney, and was general Counsel for NC ElectriCities.
  • Naomi E. Morris (1921–1986) was a jurist who served on the North Carolina Court of Appeals from its creation in 1967 through 1982. She was Chief Judge of that court from 1978 through 1982, the first woman to hold that post and only the second woman in the state to hold such a high judicial position. Morris graduated from Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College) and UNC Law School. Before being appointed to the bench, she was a partner in the law firm Lucas Rand & Wallace, where she once served as a legal secretary.
  • Miguel A. Núñez, Jr. (born August 11, 1964) is an American actor. He played supporting roles in The Return of the Living Dead and Life, and a leading role in Juwanna Mann. Born in New York City and of Dominican descent, he was taken south to Wilson, North Carolina where he was raised by his grandparents.
  • Vance Page (September 15, 1905 Elm City, North Carolina – July 14, 1951 Wilson, North Carolina) was a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs from 1938 to 1941. He lived in Wilson, NC in his final years.
  • Stan Partenheimer [Party] (October 21, 1922 – January 28, 1989) was a pitcher who played for the Boston Red Sox (1944) and St. Louis Cardinals (1945). Partenheimer retired to Wilson, North Carolina where he died at the age of 66.
  • Julius Peppers (January 18, 1980) nicknamed "The Freak Of Nature”, is an American football outside linebacker/defensive end for the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League. He was born in Wilson, North Carolina and raised in nearby Bailey, NC. He played both college football and basketball for the University of North Carolina, and was recognized as a football All-American. He has also played professionally for the Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers, and Chicago Bears.
  • Randy Renfrow (born January 28, 1958 in Wilson, North Carolina) is a former NASCAR driver. He raced many years in the Craftsman Truck Series before retiring.
  • Corey Thomas (born June 6, 1975 in Wilson, North Carolina) is a former professional American football wide receiver who played in one game for the Detroit Lions in 1998.
  • Gregory Walcott was born Bernard Mattox in Wendell, North Carolina and raised in Wilson, NC. While serving in the Army, Walcott appeared as a drill instructor in the film Battle Cry, and later had other movie roles playing military men. He had parts in various television series including Bonanza.
  • John Webb (September 18, 1926 – September 18, 2008) was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court (1986–1998). Prior to serving on North Carolina's highest court, Justice Webb had been a Superior Court (trial) judge and a judge of the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Webb was born in Nash County, North Carolina but lived most of his life in Wilson, NC; one of his law partners was future Governor Jim Hunt.
  • Harry F. Weyher Jr. (August 19, 1921 – March 27, 2002) was an American lawyer and president of the Pioneer Fund from 1958 to 2002. He was born and grew up in Wilson, North Carolina.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mean monthly maxima and minima (i.e. the expected highest and lowest temperature readings at any point during the year or given month) calculated based on data at said location from 1981 to 2010.


  1. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  4. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  5. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  6. ^ a b "Wilson (city) QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau". census.gov. Archived from the original on March 27, 2014.
  7. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2018 - United States -- Combined Statistical Area; and for Puerto Rico". American FactFinder. U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  8. ^ Lichtenstein, Gaston (1911). Louis D. Wilson, Mexican War Martyr, also, Thos. H. Hall, Andrew Johnson as he Really was, and, Our Town Common; Four Articles. Richmond, Va.: H. T. Ezekiel. p. 7. OCLC 1127629. OL 14021029M.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 6, 2014. Retrieved May 6, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  11. ^ "NOAA 1981-2010 Climate Normals". NOAA Regional Climate Centers. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  12. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  13. ^ "Truist".
  14. ^ "Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations Facility Operates 1 Million Man-Hours Without Lost-Time Accident". Bridgestone Americas, Inc. Archived from the original on November 29, 2014.
  15. ^ "City of Wilson 2011 CAFR" (PDF). Wilsonnc.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 7, 2012. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  16. ^ "Wilson County School District". Wilson County. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  17. ^ "Greenlight". Greenlightnc.com. Retrieved July 26, 2012.
  18. ^ "Greenlight: CITY OF WILSON TO OFFER GIGABIT INTERNET SERVICE". Greenlightnc.com. Archived from the original on April 24, 2013.
  19. ^ "GOP seeks Farmer-Butterfield investigation". The Wilson Times. Retrieved August 15, 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • Dyhouse, Janie (August 2018). "We Saved It". VFW Magazine. Vol. 105 no. 10. Kansas City, Mo.: Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. p. 50. ISSN 0161-8598. Inactive just two years ago, a North Carolina Post is now revitalized. Hard work and a focus on recruiting young vets was the method.

External links[edit]

General information