New collections have been making their way to the Western Regional Archives. Here is an example of one of our new treasures!
Many folks in Asheville still remember Bill Norwood as Mr. Bill on WLOS channel 13. Norwood hosted several popular children’s television programs during the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Before getting his start in the fledgling field of radio broadcasting, Norwood learned to play the accordion as a teenager growing up in Maryland. Prior to enlisting in the Naval Air Corps during World War II, young Norwood played USO units in the Washington, D.C. area.
Following the war, Norwood relocated to Morehead City, North Carolina, and worked as a civilian inspector at Cherry Point Air Station. But he always loved his music. Bill formed a country swing band, which, in addition to playing at military bases and schools in the area, performed live on radio station WMBL. Soon Bill was offered a position as a disc jockey and announcer.
In 1954, he made the switch to television, when WNCT in Greenville, North Carolina, hired him as an announcer, musician, and emcee. He hosted Down Home with the Carolina Partners, a musical show that was popular with both the studio and television audiences. The Carnival Cartoon program was another of Bill’s shows which he hosted with puppets Droopy and Willie. This led to public appearances and hosting local events.
The multi-talented Norwood was also a musician and band leader. He played the accordion with several orchestras and ensembles. His Bill Norwood Trio played a stint of live broadcasts on WNCT weekday mornings before the Betty White Show. Before leaving Greenville he served as program director and farm manager at WNCT.
In 1959, Norwood moved to Asheville, where he began a rewarding career in children’s programming with WLOS-TV, an ABC affiliate. His first show was The Magic Bus, followed by Mr. Bill’s Space Patrol. He later gave up costumes and themed programs and was just Mr. Bill each weekday morning showing cartoons, the Three Stooges, and announcing local children’s birthdays. On Saturday mornings, Mr. Bill’s Weekend was a more serious, television magazine-type program. Changes to station formatting led to his retirement as on-air talent in 1988, although he occasionally substituted for news anchors and weathermen.
A licensed pilot, Norwood was the captain of the WLOS Thirtoon Balloon, which floated over the Land of the Sky at promotional events across western North Carolina.
His penchant for the sport of ballooning led him to teach classes at A-B Tech and to start his own ballooning company. He could also be seen at the Grove Park Inn, where his ensemble, The Bill Norwood Trio, was the house band at the Sunset Terrace for a number of years.
At nearly 90 years old, Norwood can still be seen around the Asheville area, and his fans can’t help but greet their childhood friend, Mr. Bill.
The Bill Norwood Collection is comprised of photographs, AV material, clippings, ephemera, and awards the donor received during his many years in the public spotlight.