Louis Round Wilson and his Library– Part One

Louis Round Wilson and his Library– Part One June 15, 2024

Louis Round Wilson was born in the mountains of N.C. in Lenoir in 1876. No one could have known he was destined to become the most famous librarian in the whole state in the 20th century, for whom the grand old library at UNC is quite appropriately named. He’s the one that brought that library into modernity.  The original building was completed in 1929, the two wings were added in 1952, and an addition to the stacks happened in 1977. From 1984 to 87 there was renovation of the whole, and it is scheduled to have further renovations to: 1) update the HVAC system and the sprinkler system to bring it up to the fire code, and 2) make it more handicap accessible.  Maybe that will begin later this year but the Administration needs to raise more money, and is looking for a big time donor.    Here’s my great uncle Louey…

He looks very much like my grandfather, James Arthur West….

Uncle Louey lived until 1979, which is to say he lived into his 103rd year!  Here’s his home on Rosemary St. where I used to visit him and his two daughters Penelope and Betty.

The last time I visited with him was either in 1973 or 1974, and he was already approaching 100 years old and yet his mind, though not his hearing was sharp as a tack!   They were stalwart Methodists like me, and they would simply walk to Franklin St. one block over and attend the First Methodist Church there (and BTW, that street was named for Ben Franklin).  I had recently been ordained a Methodist minister and was telling Uncle Louey about it, and he got this big grin on his face and said ‘I was once ordained a Methodist minister’.  One of the daughters speaking directly into his good ear said, ‘Daddy you are not remembering right’.   He replied ‘Oh yes I am, our Methodist minister once took me out on Jordan lake to go fishing, and he dained to give me the oars while he fished.  That was the day I was oar-dained by a Methodist minister.’   I just laughed and laughed, as did we all.  Sure enough he was still quick-witted.   Here below is the plaque the class of 1985 put up on the front of the library….

Uncle Louey had overseen the construction of the library, and a good thing he did because it was completed right when the stock market crashed in 1929.  He stayed on as librarian through 1932, and then worked as UNC’s historian, and remarkably he became an advisor to University Presidents and University Chancellors as well.  In our next post we will examine the library itself, and then later focus on several of the special collections.

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