BIOGRAPHIES of HENDERSON COUNTY

WILLIE LEE (GILLIAM) WALKER

Our Interesting Person this week modestly maintains that she has never done anything interesting, but her family and many friends would not agree. From 1936 until her retirement 14 years ago she worked with many farmers in this | area while serving in the ASCS ' (Agricultural Stabilization Conser­vation Service). Willie Lee is the daughter of the late Lee O. Gilliam, and Daisy Gilliam of the Life community, a small friendly neighborhood about 7 miles southwest of Lexington. She was the third daughter in the family, having 2 older sisters, Miss Eunice Gilliam and the late Mrs. Louise Wadley; also 2 younger sisters, Mrs. Lula Bailey and the late Jane Britt. She also has a brother, Wallace Gilliam.

She attended grade school at Chapel Hill for the first six grades, the 7th and 8th grades in Lexington and graduated from Lexington High School hi 1929. She recalls that there were 36 in her graduating class. She played basketball during her school days. During those early years she rode the N. C. & St. L train to Lexington, often having to take a taxi to school from the depot. She remembers mat her cab driver was the late Charlie Frank Council. When the train schedule was changed from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., it was rather late when she arrived at school, also late when she arrived home that evening at 6:45 p.m. She boarded in town during the bad winter months and drove a Model-T Ford in better weather. She recalls that some of her good teachers in high school were the late Professor J. O. Brown, the late W. L. Bobbitt, Mrs. Josepline Butler and Mrs. Helen Ross.

Willie Lee was married to Lee W. Little in June of 1929. He passed away in 1935 leaving her with 3 little sons: Vance, Joe, and Lee, Jr. (Buddy). Being faced with making a living for her 3 little boys she took a short business course through correspondence, studying book­keeping, typing and shorthand. In 1936 she obtained clerical work with the PMAC (Production Marketing Association), a branch of the Department ol Agriculture. The name of this branch changes several times during different administrations. It is presently called ASCS and has its office in the County Building. Willie Leo worked as a clerk for 6 years, from June, 1936 to May, 1942. Later, her title was changed to Executive Director. She says they worked on all farm programs administered from Washington through state officials down to those in the county. She thinks they must have served about 2,500 families during those years, and to her they are some very important people. Her department furnished feed and fiber for all their participants. During her working years there were usually from 8 to 12 clerks in the office to supervise, and during the summer months there would be around 15 to 18 men in the field measuring crops with the use of aerial photography.

In 1942 Willie Lee married James Lyman Walker who served in World . War II from April, 1942 until August, 1945. When he came home from the war, they built the home in which they now live. She says he has been the best of stepfathers to her sons. He enjoyed farming, and worked in construct­ion until he retired at the age of 70. Both Willie Lee and Lyman enjoy living on the farm, growing flowers and vegetables, fishing in a small lake on the farm, and working in their church, New Bethel Methodist Church. Lyman has served as Sunday School superintendent 25 years as well as other church offices. He loves good gospel' singing. She has served as a Sunday School teacher and treasurer of the church for about 30 years. She taught the young peoples class for about 10 years; later taught adults.

They thoroughly enjoy their children and grand children. The 3 boys all live in Memphis. Vance and his wife, Jacqueline; Joe and his wife, Martha, and Buddy with his wife, Anne, all love to visit "back home". Willie Lee says there are 4 grandsons and 5 granddaugh­ters. The youngest granddaughter, now 19, is a sophomore at Memphis State University. One grandson, who is in the Naval Air Force lives hi Hawaii, and another granddau­ghter lives in Monroe, La. The others live in Memphis. There are also 3 great grandchildren. Especially happy tunes are at Christmas when all come home for the holidays. Willie Lee says, "It's crowded, but it's wonderful." They all hold hands, sing Christmas carols, exchange gifts, and share a lot of love. Since Willie Lee retired from ASCS in 1971 she has given more time visiting, doing church and club work, and for the past 18 months, she has enjoyed serving as a volunteer for 2 or 3 hours a week at Lexington Methodist Hospital. For several years she enjoyed attending different exercise spas, but she says she has just about decided to stay a little "fat". They enjoy having guests and friends in their home for meals, also going out to dine occasionally. Her main hobby is growing flowers. A few years ago, while on a vacation trip to Niagara Falls, they crossed into Canada and visited the lovely International Gardens «with several acres of • beautiful flowers. Willie Lee was especially impressed with the many roses growing in heart shaped plots - other flowers added their beauty to the spot which she describes as the most beautiful she has ever seen. It was a never-to-be-forgot­ten experience.

"An interesting Person" The Lexington Progress August 28, 1985

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