LUMBERTON — All aspects of agriculture in Robeson County bore more fruit because of the lifelong dedication of William Williford, according to Everett Davis, the former director of the Robeson County Cooperative Extension Service, a job Williford held for almost two decades.
“He kept his finger on the pulse of the county,” said Davis of Williford, who died Tuesday at the age of 89.
In addition to being the chairman of the Extension office for 18 years, Williford was a Farm Bureau board member, a member of the Bee Keeper Association, a member of the Livestock and Crop Promotion Association and a Tobacco Board of Trade sales supervisor.
Williford served as a U.S. Army infantryman during the European campaign of World War II, earning the Purple Heart as well as two Bronze Stars.
Williford earned master’s degrees in adult education and agronomy from North Carolina State University. In 1960, he was awarded the Jaycee Man of the Year award. He joined the Lumberton Rotary Club in 1964.
“He was so knowledgeable about agriculture in the county,” said Davis, a friend of Williford’s for about 40 years. “He was involved with all aspects of it. His interest in the people in that field was truly admirable.”
Davis, a fellow Farm Bureau board member, never worked directly with Williford, but their paths frequently crossed as they shared some of the same interests.
“He was very outgoing, very personable and very active,” Davis said. “A real gentleman — he was interested in you and what was going on around you. He made you feel good when you talked to him.
“He seemed to know everybody, and involved himself in a lot of organizations to make sure the issues of the county were being addressed. He was a motivator and talked people into helping get done what needed to get done.”
Williford oversaw the design and construction of the current Extension building at 455 Caton Road, according to Davis.
“He was very supportive of children and the 4-H Program,” Davis said. “It was one of his main interests. He directed funding for youth groups and participated in fundraisers.”
Williford and his wife, Lorena Strickland Williford, never had children, but he stayed involved with youths. He received national, state and local recognition for his work with children, including being named the National Winner of Youth Development.
Lycurous Lowery, a friend of Williford’s for 30 years, called him a “Grade-A” man who viewed everyone as equals.
“He was outstanding and gave everyone a fair chance,” Lowery said. “He was a pleasant person to everyone and appreciated their unique personalities.
“Williford had a vision for the community. All he wanted was harmony. He wanted people to work together. He wanted to inspire people to do their jobs and be kind to one another.”
Williford was an active member of the First Baptist Church Men and Women’s Bible class, of which he served as secretary and treasurer.
Lowery recalled a recent visit with Williford after his health began to decline.
“Even in the hospital, he was making comments about how to improve my farm,” Lowery said. “He embodied community, agriculture and brotherly love.”
The funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at Biggs Funeral Home in Lumberton, with entombment at Gardens of Faith Cemetery Mausoleum. Williford’s obituary is in today’s Robesonian.
The family requests memorials be made to the First Baptist Church, P.O. Box 938, Lumberton, NC 28359; Boys and Girls Home of N.C., P.O. Box 127, Lake Waccamaw, NC 28459; Baptist Children’s Home of N.C. Inc., P.O. Box 967, Pembroke, NC 28372; or a charity of your choice.