RIP Council Member Bill Thorpe

Bill Thorpe cared about Chapel Hill enough to serve again on the Council. His point of view and good humor will be missed.




Thank you for posting this, Fred. How did you find out? (Unfortunately, I can't find any mention of this on local newspapers' web sites.)

I was increasingly concerned as we have been hearing that Bill wasn't particpating in Council activities recently. Bill had a long, long record of service to Chapel Hill, Orange County, and the State of North Carolina. His voice will be missed, especially on the critical issue of racial justice in our community. 

We had some differences, but I still considered him my friend. I'm really sorry to see him go.

Had a few messages on the answering machine from people who got the word at church this morning.

Bill liked to greet me by fussing about something or other that I or the University had done, and while he often meant it, he always did it with a twinkle in his eye. 


Bill would always greet me with a smiling hello and a warm handshake. He'd ask me how things were going and then he'd always say "How come you never call me? When are you going to come over and have coffee with me?"

I'd tell him soon and we'd shake hands again as we parted. Unfortunately, soon never came. I'll miss Bill. So will Chapel Hill.

From today's paper:

Bill Thorpe, long-serving town council member, dies

Max Rose, City Editor


Published: Monday, September 29, 2008

Updated: Monday, September 29, 2008

Bill Thorpe, long-time Chapel Hill Town Council member and fighter for civil rights, died in his home Saturday night from heart problems.

Thorpe was the voice for the least fortunate during his total of 11 years on the council and almost 4o years living in Chapel Hill.

He was known for his ability with people and for his love for politics. He would work the council chamber or any other room, greeting everyone with a smile and asking names and hometowns.

“He had a big talent and ability to where he would never meet a stranger,” said Fred Battle, the former president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who has known Thorpe since 1970. “And he was one who would look to help everybody.”

Thorpe fought for renaming Airport Road after his idol Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 2005 and in 1984 was instrumental in Chapel Hill becoming one of the first Southern municipalities to officially recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“He really kept our feet to the fire as far as remembering what out values were,” council member Mark Kleinschmidt said. “He always understood that issues that we worked on involved the lives of people.”

Thorpe is survived by his wife Gene, a retired educator, and two children. will post related stories during the day.

Fred, inquiring minds want to know if and when (and where) Bill's memorial service might be attended.  I got to know Bill when he was a founding member of the Peoples Alliance for a Cooperative Commonwealth, PACC, today's PA minus the CC.  This was in the early 70s. 

Via the Carrboro Citizen:

A public viewing will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3, at University Baptist Church and services will be held at 1 p.m. 




It's also listed in our calendar here at OP which is on the bottom of this and every page.

In the past Bill and I would meet from time to time at Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe to discuss transportation issues, and sometimes other topics. I always felt like I was in the presence of someone with extraordinary personality and warmth. I had lost contact with him more recently, and now I regret not getting to know him better. The news came as a shock to me, and it is very sad news indeed.

James Coley

I too will miss Bill. He always would have a friendly word to share with my son when I would bring Carl to various Town meetings.


Bill and I were both elected to the Council in 1977 (my second term, his first) and I served two years with him (I resigned in 1979). He had a heart of gold. Many underestimated him or thought him superficial, but that was just one of Bill's personas. I will try to get over to Chapel Hill Friday for the funeral.

I did get over to Chapel Hill for the funeral -- sure brought back many memories of working with Bill on Council 3 decades ago. The memorial program was very well done.

It was a wonderful homegoing celebrated in a very full University Baptist Church this afternoon.  Along with his family and many relatives, the words of tribute, the joyful music, and the many local and state-wide friends and associates all contributed to what was a moving celebration of Bill's life. 

Rest in peace, Bill Thorpe.

It was a wonderful service and a snapshot of the kind of person Bill was.    I especially enjoyed hearing from people who had such a long relationship with Bill.  I got to know him only a couple of years ago and he was  a person that I especially enjoyed working with.   

Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.