Hanes Lineberry Funeral Home

515 North Elm Street, Greensboro, NC


Robert W. Watson

December 26, 1925February 27, 2012

Robert Winthrop Watson passed away on Monday, February 27, 2012 surrounded by his family. He was a prominent American poet and literary figure.

Born in Passaic, N.J. to Winthrop and Laura Watson in 1925, Mr. Watson attended public schools there. During World War II, he was a member of the U.S. Navy. He received a B.A. from Williams College with honors in economics, then both an M.A. and Ph.D. in Literature in English from The Johns Hopkins University, and taught at both institutions. In 1946-47 he attended the University of Zurich on a Swiss-American Exchange Fellowship; while there he studied art history and learned to ski.

In 1953, Mr. Watson came with his wife, the painter Betty Watson, to teach in the English Department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro – then The Woman’s College. At the request of the English Department he activated the M.F.A program in 1964 and in 1965 founded The Greensboro Review, a literary journal. His abiding interest was in the many graduates whose careers and successes he followed through the years.

Along with his family Mr. Watson spent many summers in Provincetown, MA and sabbaticals in New York City and Key West where he wrote several of his books. He served as a visiting writer in 1968-69 at San Fernando Valley State College (now University of California at Northridge). After retiring from teaching he and Betty travelled abroad exploring countries, many with cultures different from ours, including Nepal, India, Bali and Morocco.

Mr. Watson published eight collections of poetry including Robert Watson The Complete Poems published in 2011, and two novels, Three Sides of the Mirror and Lily Lang. Short works were included in publications such as The New York Times, American Scholar, The New Yorker, Harpers, Miami Daily News, Poetry Magazine and others. He won honors from numerous arts organizations, among them the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He gave lectures and readings of his works at colleges and other institutions including the Library of Congress.

Mr. Watson is survived by his wife, Betty; his son and daughter-in-law, Winthrop and Signe Watson of Pittsburgh, PA; his daughter and son-in-law, Caroline and William Keens of Falls Church, VA; two granddaughters, Margaret and Elizabeth Watson, and two grandsons, Gavin and Benjamin Keens.

The family will have a private memorial.


  • Private Family Service


Robert W. Watson

have a memory or condolence to add?

Lila Summer-Lane

March 16, 2012

Dear Betty, When I think of Bob, I think of you, your paintings, your daughter - whom I met just once, briefly -- and your son, whom I've never met. I do think of all of you because Bob's presence to us, his students, included his family. He was a joyful appreciator, and that just-short-of guffaw amusement when something struck him as good -- whether he was leafing through a volume of Yeats or pointing out a place in my work that made me think he'd found some genius there. He was a wonderful teacher. Equally, I so love his poems, in my ear as I write. I will miss him with you. Lila Summer ('67 and '79)

Susan Harman-Scott

March 11, 2012

Betty, Winthrop and Caroline, I was very sad to learn of Bob's passing. He was a wonderful, kind, gifted person. I will always treasure the memories of our times together.

Tony Dickerson

March 4, 2012

Bob was a very dear friend. He was gentle, kind, compassionate and a great listener. He will be greatly missed.

Liz Urquhart

March 2, 2012

Dear Betty, Bob was a great man who inspired many of us in those dusty old McIver building classrooms. We were all lucky to know him in those wonderful years. With much sympathy,

Terrell E Weaver

March 2, 2012

Betty and Family: What a shock to lelarn of Bob's untimely death. It seems that we spoke only weeks ago at Well Sp[ring during dinner. What a legacy he leaves to us and you. How much we used to enjoy seeing you at different ethnic restaurants in town and listening to the tales of your most recent travels. Bob was one of my favorite professors; and I always admired both of you for your vibrant spirits and sincerity.

Our deep sympathy is extended to you and your family in this time of great sorrow and loss.

Terry Weaver & Sylvia Eidam

March 1, 2012

Dear Betty,
Please accept our deepest sympathy at this very sad time. If there is anything we can do for you or your family please call (545-5227) or e-mail (jsawp57@yahoo.com)
Sincerely, Joan & Jim Armstrong

March 1, 2012

Dear Betty - As student of Bob's in the 1960s and a longtime admirer of his writing and your painting, I send condolences to you and all your family. - Donna Reiss

June Milby

February 29, 2012

Dear Betty, Winthrop and Caroline, I am heartbroken at this news. Bob was one of the significant people in my life, and more importantly, was a delight to see and spend time with. All our lives were richer because he was part of it. I pray that you will be able to focus on the strengths he has given you and the joy you have shared. I know that this is a passage we must all face, it doesn't make it less difficult for those who are left behind. Take joy in the fact that every friend Bob had heard about how much he loved you and how incredible you are. I pray for you all and hold you in my heart. Love you.

George Singleton

February 29, 2012

Dear Betty, Winthrop, and Caroline--It is with a heavy and bruised heart that I write this. I hope that you all emerge from this sad occasion knowing how much Bob affected so many people on the planet. What a great, great man. He will be missed daily. Greensboro has lost a large part of its soul.