Bill Creech was born in his beloved hometown of Smithfield in Johnston County, North Carolina, on August 5, 1925, the youngest child of the late Corrie Emelia Hollingsworth Creech of Abbeville, South Carolina, and Charles Alderman Creech of Four Oaks. An older brother Thomson had wanted a bulldog puppy, instead. In the years ahead, though, Bill quickly won his brother over, like so many others with whom he came into contact. Bill was one of the warmest individuals imaginable, a friend to all, and a gentleman in the truest sense.
Bill spent his childhood in Smithfield during the Great Depression. As a youth, he sold peanuts in the tobacco warehouse and graduated from Smithfield High School at the age of sixteen. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, from which lifelong and cherished friendships resulted. He would later serve as a lecturer at North Carolina State University.
While at Chapel Hill, Bill volunteered for service in World War II, and honorably served his country in the United States Navy from 1945-46 in the Pacific, including the New Hebrides, New Caledonia, and the Solomon, Marshall, and Fiji Islands.
Following the war, in 1947, Bill attended the first International Summer School at the University of Oslo, Norway. During that time, he persuaded the Smithfield Herald to allow him to serve as a “foreign correspondent”. Upon return, he provided an interview to the paper in which he asserted that “race hate must end”, characteristic of the ideals and life he aspired to live. Upon graduation from UNC in 1948, he became a one-man radio station in Smithfield and Selma, a role in which he performed when musicians did not show, and advertised aluminum pit privies.
In 1949, Bill entered the United States Foreign Service and served in Baghdad, Iraq. He considered the two years he spent in Iraq to be the “millennium” of his life, from which he told many captivating stories for decades to follow. He subsequently served as Economic Officer in the U.S. Embassy in London and studied at the City of London School of Law. Between assignments in Baghdad and London, he served as International Economist in the Near East and African Division of the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C.
In 1955, Bill began his first of two periods of service as a staff member in the United States Senate in Washington. He first served as a staff member and then Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business. While working, he attended and graduated from Georgetown University School of Law at night. He also enjoyed a very active social life, helping lead the Tar Heel Club and North Carolina Society. In 1959, he entered the private practice of law, joining his uncle and cousin (Louis and Joe Levinson) in practice in downtown Smithfield.
In 1961, Senator Sam Ervin invited Bill to return to Washington as Chief Counsel and Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights. In this impactful work, he oversaw numerous studies and hearings on civil rights and civil liberties under the Constitution, including the first studies undertaken by the Congress on the Constitutional Rights of the Mentally Ill, our Military personnel, and of American Indians.
During this time, then-U.S. Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, whom Bill had informally advised on the Near East, asked Bill to be the staff person accompanying the Humphreys for extensive meetings with ranking government officials in Greece, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel, including David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir. Bill accompanied him to the Democratic National Convention (one of three conventions he attended), and served as a North Carolina key for Vice President Humphrey’s 1968 Presidential campaign.
In the mid-1960’s, Bill returned to private practice with Robinson O. Everett in Raleigh and Durham. He became active in the Bennett Place Centennial Committee and the Bentonville Centennial Committee, commemorations for which he helped host Vice President Humphrey in Raleigh and Durham, and three sitting United States Senators in Smithfield and Bentonville, respectively.
In 1966, Bill sought the Democratic nomination for U.S. Congress, when his home county was gerrymandered out of the district.
In 1968, Bill had the great fortune of marrying Sally Ann Wood, also of Smithfield, his bride of over 48 years. Bill began elective public service in 1976, when he was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives and then the North Carolina Senate, serving four years in each chamber. He was most satisfied in his work in further integrating the city and county schools and in authoring groundbreaking legislation to provide equal educational opportunities for exceptional children. Known as the “Creech Bill”, the legislation has had a profound positive impact on children with disabilities and their families, and has served as an international model.
In 1982, Bill was appointed by Governor Jim Hunt and subsequently elected to the North Carolina District Court in Wake County, where he served for 14 years. In 1996, he became an Emergency District Court Judge, holding court in virtually every county in the State over the decade or more to follow. He benefitted from many devoted assistants, clerks, law enforcement officers, and fellow judges and members of the legal community with whom he came into contact at the Courthouse every day for nearly three decades.
Bill was an active Member of Edenton Street United Methodist Church, where he was instrumental in the formation of both the Child Development Center and the Adult Day Care Center.
Bill was active in civic and philanthropic organizations too numerous to adequately mention, including in the areas of social justice, the performing arts, international affairs and understanding, developmental disabilities, mental illness, the legal community, and anything to connect him to and with Smithfield and Johnston County. His involvement included work towards the accreditation of Campbell University, formation of the Cameron Park Association, moving the Historic Hastings House in Smithfield to the Town Commons, and service with Triangle World Affairs Council, United Nations Association, Lions Club, The Braxton-Craven Inns of Court, Wake County Bar Association, Legal Aid, Capitol Preservation Committee, Leonidas Lafayette Polk Home Foundation, Yates Mill Association, Friends of D.H. Hill Library of North Carolina State University (past-President), UNC-Wilmington, Meredith College, Wake Technical Community College, The Raleigh Boychoir, The North Carolina Symphony, The Raleigh Little Theater (past-President), Tuscarora Council of Boy Scouts of America, American Revolution Bicentennial Commission of North Carolina, The Wake County Historical Society, Methodist Home for Children, March of Dimes (State Chairman), Wake County Mental Health Society (Past-President), North Carolina Mental Health Association, Johnston County Heritage Center, Johnston County Board of Public Welfare, North Carolina and National Advisory Councils on Small Business, and The White House Conference on Small Business. In later years, and in retirement, he enjoyed time with friends and guests at the Capital City Club, University Club, Carolina Country Club, Surf Club, and Wrightsville Beach.
Bill was predeceased by his parents, his four brothers, Charles (“Buck”), Thomson, Mansfield, Marshall Ezekiel (“Zeke”), and his sisters Laura Pool (who died in infancy) and Elizabeth Holcombe Creech Gillette. He is survived by his wife Sally and their three sons: Laurance Faison Wood Creech and his wife Stephanie of Hickory, William Ezekiel Hollingsworth Creech and his wife Bess of Raleigh, and Charles Alderman Creech, II and his wife Robyn of Raleigh. He is survived by seven grandchildren: Chase, Zeke, Lilli, Katie Worth, Elizabeth, Hollings, and Mansfield. He is also survived by his sister-in-law Julia Lee Creech of Raleigh and Kinston, and many beloved nieces, nephews and cousins.
Bill’s defining characteristics were his interpersonal skills, and his gift of interest in and warmth towards others. Whomever you were, he took an interest in you and your family, and wanted to be a resource for you. He felt truly blessed for his full life, rich with experiences, opportunities, family, and friends.
A Celebration of Life is planned for Thursday evening, October 13, from 5:30-7:30 PM, at the Borden House on the former Methodist Home property (Fletcher Park), 820 Clay Street, Raleigh. A Memorial Service will be held at Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh on Friday, October 14, at 1pm, with a visitation following the service. Burial will occur later Friday afternoon at Riverside Cemetery in Smithfield at 4:30pm. In lieu of flowers, please send memorials to the Methodist Home for Children, the Johnston County Heritage Center, and the Child Development Center of Edenton Street United Methodist Church. The family would like to give particular thanks and praise to all those who provided special care to Bill in his final years, months, and days; thank you.