Friday, January 30, 2015

When Billy Arthur lived in New Bern

Billy Arthur standing in front of the New Bern Tribune office, ca 1933. Collection of John B. Green III.
By John B. Green III

William Joseph Eudy "Billy" Arthur was a newspaperman and a character.  Few people were as fondly recalled by the previous generation of New Bernians.  Whether it was for his newspaper column which detailed the people and politics of New Bern, his humor and exploits (see photo below), or his appearance (he was born with a form of dwarfism) Arthur was always remembered.  Though he lived in New Bern for only a few years from 1933 to 1940, he made a lasting impression.

Billy Arthur at liquor still raid, Craven County, ca. 1933.  Collection of I.I. Blanford.
Detail of above photo showing Arthur.
Billy Arthur was born in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1911.  He attended the Charlotte schools and graduated from Charlotte Central High School in 1928.  Arthur traveled on the Vaudeville circuit from 1929 to 1930 and then enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1931.  He served as head cheerleader 1931-1932 and graduated in 1933 with a degree in journalism.

Arthur came to New Bern in 1933 to work as a columnist, and eventually, as city editor of the New Bern Tribune.  He soon became involved in nearly every aspect of the community, distilling his observations into his regular column  "About Town."  At the same time he became a free-lance journalist contributing articles and regular features to The State Magazine in Raleigh.  Billy Arthur left New Bern in 1940 when he purchased the weekly newspaper in Jacksonville, North Carolina.  The paper became a success as Arthur chronicled the building of Camp Lejeune and other military bases in eastern North Carolina.  So popular was Billy Arthur that he was twice elected to represent Onslow County in the state legislature 1943-1945.  Arthur sold the Jacksonville paper and associated businesses in 1953.  His later life was centered around Chapel Hill where he wrote, published, and owned and operated a hobby store.  Arthur died in 2006 at the age of 95.  He was survived by his wife, son, daughter, and grandchild.

Two New Bern institutions, Gilbert Waters' Buggymobile and Billy Arthur, from the front cover of The State, Jan. 31, 1942.

We'll close with a sample of Billy Arthur's wit and wisdom from a random issue of New Bern Tribune.

New Bern Tribune, Sunday, 15 Oct 1933.