Bill Hensley 2008
Bill Hensley wrote his first feature story on Arnold Palmer in 1948 when Palmer came to Wake Forest and started winning golf tournaments. A sophomore writer for the Old Gold and Black at the time, he—after sixty years—is still writing about Palmer and other notable athletes. What’s more, he still writes with the same sophomoric enthusiasm for sports.
“Writing about sports and helping promote athletics has been a big part of my life,” the Charlotte resident said, “and I have loved every minute of it. I wouldn’t take anything for the countless thrills I have had along the way.”
Hensley’s career has been long, colorful and distinguished as he became one of the state’s key players in journalism and sports promotions. A talented and creative writer with a knack for taking the reader into the locker room or behind the scenes, he was also an innovator and rarely accepted the status quo if there was a better way to do things.
His first job was as a sportswriter in his hometown of Asheville in 1950 after graduating with a degree in English from Wake Forest, where he served as editor of the student newspaper. When the Deacons joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1953, athletic director Jim Weaver asked him to become the school’s first Sports Information Director.
Because of the excellent job he did at Wake Forest, he was lured away by North Carolina State in 1955 and publicized the Wolfpack for five years. During his tenure with Wake and State, he produced 12 All-Americans and handled media relations for the ACC basketball tournament, the Dixie Classic tournament, and four NCAA regionals.
He has assisted with media relations for ten major golf championships, including six US Opens, along with numerous local and regional tournaments. In a recent magazine survey, he was ranked as the third most influential person in North Carolina golf circles.When he became Director of Tourism for the state of North Carolina, he produced the state’s first golf directory, and created a series of unique, award-winning national ads to promote travel, including golf, skiing, hunting and fishing, to lure visitors. When the 50 state travel directors formed a professional association, he was named the first chairman.
Hensley has been an active member of the Atlantic Coast Sportswriters Association since its beginning. He served the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, which he helped create, as president for four years, 1969-70 and 1995-96, and was a co-founder of the Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and was honored with Marco Polo status, the group’s highest honor.
He is a member of the North Carolina Journalism/Public Relations Hall of Fame and the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame.
In 1995, when he didn’t agree with the way national golf publications rated North Carolina golf courses, he organized the prestigious North Carolina golf panel. Each year the group selects the top 100 courses in the state. “I wanted our courses to be rated by the men and women who play them every day,” he explained, “not by a few outsiders who really don’t know Tar Heel golf. Our annual ratings are a source of pride and reflect an accurate appraisal.”
His hobbies are golf, skiing and hunting. His wife of 52 years, the former Carol Moore of Raleigh, who he met at Wake Forest, died in November of 2006. He is the father of four children and seven grandchildren.