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Wilson, North Carolina
City of Wilson
Wilson Municipal Building
Wilson Municipal Building
Wilson, North Carolina logo.PNG
Location of Wilson in Wilson County, North Carolina
Location of Wilson in Wilson County, North Carolina
Wilson, North Carolina is located in North Carolina
Wilson, North Carolina
Wilson, North Carolina
Location in North Carolina
Wilson, North Carolina is located in the United States
Wilson, North Carolina
Wilson, North Carolina
Location in the United States
Wilson, North Carolina is located in North America
Wilson, North Carolina
Wilson, North Carolina
Location in North America
Country  United States
State  North Carolina
County Wilson
  • Black Creek
  • Old Fields
  • Stantonsburg
  • Taylors
  • Toisnot
  • Wilson
Incorporated January 29, 1849 (1849-01-29Tmdy)
Named for Col. Louis D. Wilson
 • Type Council–Manager
 • Total 31.99 sq mi (82.84 km2)
 • Land 31.11 sq mi (80.58 km2)
 • Water 0.87 sq mi (2.26 km2)
108 ft (33 m)
 • Total 49,167
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,589.61/sq mi (613.75/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern Time Zone (USA/Canada))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (-4)
Zip Codes
27822, 27880, 27893, 27894, 27895, 27896
Area code 252
FIPS code 37-74540
GNIS feature ID 1023273
Interstate Highways I-95.svg I-795.svg
U.S. Highways US 117.svg US 264.svg US 301.svg

Wilson is a city in and the county seat of Wilson County, North Carolina, United States. Located approximately 40 mi (64 km) east of the capital city of Raleigh, it is served by the interchange of Interstate 95 and U.S. Route 264. Wilson had an estimated population of 49,459 in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and is also an anchor city of the Rocky Mount-Wilson-Roanoke Rapids CSA, with a total population of 297,726 as of 2018.

In the early 21st century, Wilson was ranked as 18th in size among North Carolina's 500-plus municipalities. From 1990 to 2010, the city population increased by more than 40 percent, primarily due to construction of new subdivisions that attracted many new residents. This has been accompanied by new retail and shopping construction, primarily in the northwestern parts of the city. Wilson is a diverse community; in 2012, the US Census estimated that 48% of the population identified as African American, and 43% as Whites; the remaining 9% includes Latinos and Asians, such as Vietnamese, Chinese and Indian groups. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated in 2012 that nearly 5,000 county residents (7.5 percent) were foreign-born. Of those, nearly 3,000 people, or 62 percent, had entered the U.S. since 2000.

Once a center of tobacco cultivation, the city was widely known as "The World’s Greatest Tobacco Market" in the 19th century. In the 21st century, Wilson enjoys a diverse economy based on agriculture, manufacturing, commercial, and service businesses.


Wilson is located at 35°43′52″N 77°55′25″W / 35.73111°N 77.92361°W / 35.73111; -77.92361 (35.731093, -77.923509).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 23.4 square miles (61 km2), of which, 23.3 square miles (60 km2) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) of it (0.64%) is water.

Wilson is located at the intersection of Interstate 95 and US 264; approximately 45 minutes east of Raleigh, the state capital. It also is at the northern terminus of Interstate 795, which provides a route to Interstate 40 and the port city of Wilmington, North Carolina.


The history of the city of Wilson dates back to a community that formed around Toisnot Primitive Baptist Church, built in the early 1800s. The community was originally called Toisnot. In 1836, the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad Co. began building a Wilmington-to-Weldon line. The railline reached the community in 1839, and by 1840 Toisnot had both north-and-south service. That led to the growth of the community.

On January 29, 1849, the North Carolina General Assembly chartered the Town of Wilson. It was named for Colonel Louis D. Wilson, U.S. Volunteers, who died of fever while on leave from the State senate during the Mexican-American War. Messrs. Joshua Barnes, John W. Farmer, James D. Barnes, Dylan Dieterle, Jonathan D. Rountree, and Arthur Farmer were named as the first town commissioners.

Wilson currently operates under a City Council-City Manager form of government. The City Council includes seven members who are elected by districts and a mayor who is elected at large. All terms are four years. The City Council makes policy and budget decisions, which are enacted by the city manager, whom they appoint, and the staff.

C. Bruce Rose is the longest-serving mayor, having served continuously since 1992. Prior to that, he was a city firefighter for 30 years and fire chief for seven years.

The Gen. Joshua Barnes House, Branch Banking, Broad-Kenan Streets Historic District, Cherry Hotel, Davis-Whitehead-Harriss House, East Wilson Historic District, Old Wilson Historic District, Joseph John Pender House, Moses Rountree House, Upper Town Creek Rural Historic District, West Nash Street Historic District, Olzie Whitehead Williams House, Wilson Central Business-Tobacco Warehouse Historic District, Wilson County Courthouse, and Woodard Family Rural Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 960
1870 1,036 7.9%
1880 1,475 42.4%
1890 2,126 44.1%
1900 3,525 65.8%
1910 6,717 90.6%
1920 10,612 58.0%
1930 12,613 18.9%
1940 19,234 52.5%
1950 23,010 19.6%
1960 28,753 25.0%
1970 29,347 2.1%
1980 34,424 17.3%
1990 36,930 7.3%
2000 44,405 20.2%
2010 49,167 10.7%
2019 (est.) 49,459 0.6%
U.S. Decennial Census

2020 census

Wilson racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 17,503 36.58%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 22,914 47.89%
Native American 114 0.24%
Asian 811 1.69%
Pacific Islander 10 0.02%
Other/Mixed 1,675 3.5%
Hispanic or Latino 4,824 10.08%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 47,851 people, 19,667 households, and 11,529 families residing in the city.


Wilson's chief source of news is the Wilson Times, established in 1896.


Wilson is the birthplace of Branch Banking and Trust Corporation, now Truist Financial. Now headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Truist Financial is among Wilson County's top employers, with around 2,000 people working in various financial services.

Bridgestone Americas operates a plant in Wilson that employs more than 1,800 people who make radial tires for cars and light trucks. Bridgestone recently completed a 6-year, $250 million renovation of the plant, which was retooled to make run-flat passenger car tires that are sold in both the US and Japan. It recently marked 1 million man-hours without a lost-time accident.

Other large employers include Wilson County Schools; Wilson Medical Center; Smithfield Packing Co., pork products; UTC Aerospace Systems (formerly Kidde Aerospace and Defense before UTC's acquisition), aircraft fire protection systems; Sandoz, generic prescription drugs; Merck Manufacturing Division, pharmaceutical drugs; and Ardagh Group, glass containers.

Largest employers

According to the City's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:

# Employer Number of
1 Truist Financial 2,000
2 Wilson County Schools 1,800
3 Bridgestone 1,746
4 Wilson Medical Center 1,340
5 S. T. Wooten 980
6 City of Wilson 735
7 Wilson County 673
8 Smithfield Packing Company 640
9 Kidde Aerospace 600


Wilson is home to the Wilson Tobs of the Coastal Plain League, a collegiate summer baseball league. The Tobs play at Fleming Stadium in Wilson. The Tobs began play for the league's inaugural 1997 season. Wilson Speedway held 12 NASCAR Cup Series races between 1951 and 1960 as it was open at the county fairgrounds between 1934 and 1989.


Public schools

Elementary schools

  • Wells
  • Margaret Hearne
  • Vick
  • New Hope
  • Vinson-Bynum
  • B.O. Barnes
  • Winstead
  • Frederick Douglass (Formerly Elm City)
  • Stantonsburg
  • Lee Woodard
  • Lucama
  • Rock Ridge
  • Gardners
  • Jones

Middle schools

  • C H Darden
  • Forest Hills Middle
  • Toisnot
  • Elm City
  • Speight
  • Springfield

High schools

  • E. T. Beddingfield High School
  • Ralph L. Fike High School
  • James B. Hunt High School
  • Wilson Early College Academy
  • Wilson Academy of Applied Technology
  • Wilson Preparatory Academy

Alternative schools

  • Daniels Learning Center (6-8).

Charter schools

Youth Enrichment Program of Wilson, Inc. operates Sallie B. Howard School for the Arts and Education which is named after Sallie Baldwin Howard. Wilson Preparatory Academy also serves Wilson and surrounding counties as a charter school.

State-operated schools

The Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf is operated by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Office of Education Services.

Private schools

Wilson is home to several private schools:

  • Community Christian School (Daycare - Pre-K -12)
  • Garnett Christian Academy
  • Wilson Christian Academy (Daycare - Pre-K -12)
  • Greenfield School (Pre-K-12) (non-sectarian)
  • Charis Prep (Christian, 9-12)




The city has built its own Government-access television (GATV) municipal cable TV provider known as Greenlight, which provides cable TV, digital phone and internet to its residents. Greenlight was formed in 2008 to provide an independent, locally owned and operated option for television, telephone and Internet broadband connectivity for Wilson residents. Since then, Greenlight has grown to provide services to more than 6,000 residential customers and businesses and the Wilson County School System. In addition, Greenlight provides free wireless Internet access throughout the downtown Wilson area. In 2013 Wilson was the first city in North Carolina to offer gigabit Internet connectivity service to its residents via a fiber optic network. That service allows Internet users to upload or download data at speeds up to one billion bits per second.


Wilson is served by two airports: Wilson Industrial Airport and Rocky Mount-Wilson Airport (RWI), and by the Wilson Amtrak Station.

The following highways travel through Wilson: I-95, I-795, U.S. 301, U.S. Route 264, U.S. 117, N.C. 42, and N.C. 58. Five-lane roads include Hines Street, Tarboro Street, and Ward Boulevard.

RIDE is the City of Wilson's on-demand micro-transit service. RIDE replaced the fixed route bus system on September 1, 2020. RIDE is a partnership between the City of Wilson and Via, a leader in micro-transit service.


Wilson Medical Center is a 330-bed hospital.

Notable people

  • Red Barrett (1915–1990) was a pitcher who played eleven career seasons in the National League. He pitched for the Cincinnati Reds, Boston Braves, and St. Louis Cardinals. Born in Santa Barbara, CA, he lived in Wilson, North Carolina in his later years and died there at age 75.
  • Glenn Bass (born 1939) is a former collegiate and professional American football player.
  • Hunter Bell is an author and actor. Bell was born in Alabama and raised in Wilson, North Carolina until the seventh grade.
  • George Kenneth Butterfield, Jr. (born 1947) is the U.S. representative for North Carolina's 1st congressional district, serving since 2004. He is a member of the Democratic Party. Butterfield was born and grew up in a prominent black family in Wilson, North Carolina; both of his parents had black and white ancestors. Butterfield's father immigrated to the United States from Bermuda.
  • Jean Farmer-Butterfield is a Democratic member of the North Carolina General Assembly, representing the state's twenty-fourth House district since 2003. She was born and raised in Wilson, North Carolina.
  • Freddie Bynum (born 1980) is a shortstop playing for the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. He previously played for Major League Baseball teams including the Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics, and Baltimore Orioles.
  • Ben Flowers (1927–2009) was raised in Wilson, NC. He played for four different Major League Baseball teams between 1951 and 1956.
  • Jentezen Franklin (born 1962) was raised in Wilson and attended Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College). Jentezen is Senior Pastor at Free Chapel in Gainesville, Georgia and preaches through .
  • Daisy Hendley Gold (1893–1975), journalist and author
  • Pleasant Daniel Gold (1833–1920), American publisher and clergyman
  • James B. Hunt, Jr. (born 1937), was raised in Wilson, North Carolina and became a politician. He was elected governor of North Carolina, serving a record four terms. In 1984, he challenged Jesse Helms in a race for the U.S. Senate that was the most expensive Senate campaign up to that time.
  • Martha Hunt (born 1989) American fashion model.
  • Izel Jenkins (born 1964) is a former professional American football defensive back in the National Football League. He played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, and New York Giants during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
  • Thomas Kenan (Civil War) (1838–1911) was a Confederate soldier and later a politician, elected to the State legislature serving from 1865 to 1867. He ran for Congress, but was ultimately unsuccessful. He moved to Wilson, North Carolina where he was elected mayor of the city. Later he was elected North Carolina Attorney General, serving in that post from 1877 to 1885.
  • Ike Lassiter (born 1940) is a former American college and professional football defensive lineman.
  • Walt McKeel (born 1972) is a former professional baseball player. He played parts of three seasons in Major League Baseball, between 1996 and 2002, for the Boston Red Sox (1996–1997) and Colorado Rockies (2002), primarily as a catcher.
  • Louis B. Meyer (1933–1999) was a North Carolina jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court (1981-1994) and Special Superior Court Judge (1994-1999). Prior to becoming a judge, Meyer served in the FBI, was a partner in the law firm Lucas, Rand, Rose, Meyer, Jones, & Orcutt, served as City Attorney, and was general Counsel for NC ElectriCities.
  • Ed Mitchell (born 1948/1949), barbecue pitmaster and businessman
  • Naomi E. Morris (1921–1986) was a jurist who served on the North Carolina Court of Appeals from its creation in 1967 through 1982. She was Chief Judge of that court from 1978 through 1982, the first woman to hold that post and only the second woman in the state to hold such a high judicial position. Morris graduated from Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College) and UNC Law School. Before being appointed to the bench, she was a partner in the law firm Lucas Rand & Wallace, where she once served as a legal secretary.
  • Miguel A. Núñez, Jr. (born 1964) is an American actor. He played supporting roles in The Return of the Living Dead and Life, and a leading role in Juwanna Mann. Born in New York City and of Dominican descent, he was taken south to Wilson, North Carolina where he was raised by his grandparents.
  • Vance Page (1905–1951) was a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs from 1938 to 1941. He lived in Wilson, NC in his final years.
  • Stan Partenheimer [Party] (1922–1989) was a pitcher who played for the Boston Red Sox (1944) and St. Louis Cardinals (1945). Partenheimer retired to Wilson, North Carolina where he died at the age of 66.
  • Julius Peppers (born 1980) nicknamed "The Freak Of Nature”, is an American football outside linebacker/defensive end for the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League. He was born in Wilson, North Carolina and raised in nearby Bailey, NC. He played both college football and basketball for the University of North Carolina, and was recognized as a football All-American. He has also played professionally for the Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers, and Chicago Bears.
  • Randy Renfrow (born 1958) is a former NASCAR driver. He raced many years in the Craftsman Truck Series before retiring.
  • Corey Thomas (born 1975) is a former professional American football wide receiver who played in one game for the Detroit Lions in 1998.
  • Gregory Walcott was born Bernard Mattox in Wendell, North Carolina and raised in Wilson, NC. While serving in the Army, Walcott appeared as a drill instructor in the film Battle Cry, and later had other movie roles playing military men. He had parts in various television series including Bonanza.
  • John Webb (1926–2008) was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court (1986–1998). Prior to serving on North Carolina's highest court, Justice Webb had been a Superior Court (trial) judge and a judge of the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Webb was born in Nash County, North Carolina but lived most of his life in Wilson, NC; one of his law partners was future Governor Jim Hunt.
  • Harry F. Weyher Jr. (1921–2002) was an American lawyer and president of the Pioneer Fund from 1958 to 2002. He was born and grew up in Wilson, North Carolina.
  • Re’ginald Shaw-Richardson born 1967 in Wilson County is a Mayoral Appointee In Washington DC. The District of Columbia . Commissioner Re’ginald P. Shaw-Richardson was appointed to The Washington DC The Washington Regional Planning Commission on Health and HIV (COHAH)in 2018 by Mayor Muriel Bowser.

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