William Wylie Gaston III
February 22, 1926 – April 6, 2018
William Wylie Gaston III
William W. (Bill) Gaston III passed away peacefully on April 6, 2018, at his Atlanta residence. He was 92. Bill was born at home on February 22, 1926, in Richburg SC to Marion Virginia McCarter and William Wylie Gaston, Jr. He grew up on a small farm 10 miles from Chester SC. Because he was born on President’s Day, Bill’s mother set high goals for her son, and wanted him to be a doctor or president of something! After graduating from the Oakley Hall School in Richburg, he enrolled at Presbyterian College in Clinton SC, studying pre-med. When he turned 18 in 1944, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was assigned to the units occupying Japan at the end of World War II. Upon his return to the States, he enrolled at Clemson University where he graduated in 1948, with a degree in agricultural economics. After a tour of an emergency room in WWII he was happy to give up on the idea of being in the medical field.
It was at Clemson that he met a Furman student, Frances Lollis, on a blind date. They were married in June 1949 and at his death were two months shy of celebrating their 69th wedding anniversary. They had two children, Patricia, and Wylie. Bill was devoted to his grandchildren, Nicolas Gaston, and Adrienne Gaston Razvodov (Artem).
Bill was commited to family and community; to the agriculture industry; to stewardship; to education; and to his great passion…golf. Known as a tough taskmaster, he was also fair. He worked hard and expected the same from everyone around him. When asked by his daughter what made him successful, he said “I can make a decision. If it is not the correct decision, I will make another”.
He was selected to spend the summer of 1948 working for the United Fruit Company (Dole Banana Company) in Panama. Although Dole offered him a future with their company, Bill had other ideas for the direction of his life. In his senior year at Clemson, he was interviewed by Mr. D. W. Brooks, founder and CEO of The Cotton Producers Association, a farmers’ cooperative established in 1933. Bill was already committed to a position in Clayton GA as the Rabun County farm extension agent. He kept that commitment, then on August 1, 1949, Bill and his wife, Frances, moved to Atlanta where Bill began his career. As a trainee, he was initially assigned to the cotton sampling room. His job was to run different grades of cotton from table to table. In 1950, ten weeks after his daughter was born, he was assigned to work in the Southeast’s first grain elevator operation in Waynesboro GA where lived for 6 1/2 years. His son was born there. In 1957, Bill was transferred to the Atlanta home office of GoldKist and worked in the Grain Division. In 1989, at the age of 62 and with 40 years of service, he took early retirement. He had worked his way up the ranks from trainee to the position of President and CEO. He had met his mother’s goal!
Bill was also involved in church, community, and corporate affairs….in the Atlanta community, nationally, and internationally. He served on the Board of Trustees of Trust Company Bank of Georgia’s Atlanta bank(SunTrust); Southern Bell (BellSouth); Cotton States Insurance; the Chicago Board of Trade; the Central Bank for Cooperatives (Denver); the American Farm School in Thessaloniki Greece; Toepher International (Hamburg Germany); Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC, Chairman of the Foundation Council of Anderson University. He also chaired many a development campaign to raise much needed funding for hospitals and colleges. He was a lifelong Presbyterian, as were his ancestors who settled in the Fishing Creek Community (Richburg/Chester), in the 1750s. In his youth, he attended church at Fishing Creek Presbyterian. In Atlanta, he was an active member of Clairmont Presbyterian Church, teaching Sunday School and serving as deacon and elder. He was also a member of Highlands NC Presbyterian Church, First Presbyterian Church of Spartanburg SC, and Peachtree Presbyterian Church. He was a member of the Peachtree Golf Club, member and Board member of Highlands Country Club, and while living in Spartanburg SC, member of the Piedmont Club and the Spartanburg Country Club. He was active in organizing the 1976 U.S. Open Golf Tournament at the AAC. Bill was preceded in death by his parents, Marion Virginia Gaston and William Wylie Gaston, Jr., and by his brother, James McCarter Gaston. Bill is survived by his spouse, Frances Lollis Gaston of Atlanta; a daughter, Patricia Claire Gaston and a son, William Wylie Gaston IV, both of Atlanta; a grandson, Nicolas Corriveau Gaston of Charlotte NC, and a granddaughter, Adrienne Gaston Razvodov, of Astoria, NY, and numerous nieces and nephews. He is also survived by a sister, Harriet Gaston Owens, Clinton SC. The family would like to thank the many people who were devoted to his care in the last few years and especially to those who showed their love for him in the last months and days of his life. Burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the National Parkinson’s Foundation or the American Alzheimer’s Association.