Bill F. Hensley

March 11, 2022

Bill F. Hensley of Charlotte died March 11, 2022, at the age of 96. He was a well-known public relations executive noted for his many talents as a writer, lecturer, and promoter. His byline appeared in countless newspapers and magazines for over 70 years.           

A mountain man, he was born January 23, 1926, in Asheville, a son of Ida and Willard Hensley. He was graduated from Lee H. Edwards High School in 1943. A Navy Seabee veteran of World War II, he served 18 months in the South Pacific on Tinian and Okinawa.

After the war, he enrolled at Wake Forest University and was graduated in 1950 with a BA degree in English. A campus leader, he was editor of the Old Gold and Black newspaper, president of the publications board, a member of Alpha Sigma Phi, and was cited as one of ten outstanding seniors. He was elected to membership in Omicron Delta Kappa national leadership fraternity.

He began his professional career in 1950 as a sportswriter for the Asheville Citizen before becoming an FBI agent. With the bureau, he served in the New Haven, CT, and Chicago offices and as a rookie agent in Connecticut apprehended two fugitives in one day.

When the Atlantic Coast Conference was formed in 1953, he was named Wake Forest’s first Sports Information Director. After two years, he accepted the same job at NC State — where he handled media relations for the ACC and Dixie Classic tournaments — and was there five years until moving to Charlotte in 1960.

He was director of Travel and Tourism for the state of North Carolina from 1965 to l971 and won numerous national awards for advertising and promotional excellence. He was elected the first chairperson of the National Association of State Travel Directors (all 50 states) as well as the Southern Travel Directors Council (11 states).        

Hensley formed his own public relation firm in 1977 and was known as the dean of the state’s PR practitioners. His accounts included some of the nation’s finest resorts and companies. A talented, creative writer, he specialized in golf, business, and travel and was noted for lively stories that took readers behind the scenes.           

For more than 40 years, he conducted popular seminars on media relations, crisis management, publicity, and public relations and was a mentor to numerous industry newcomers. In 1995, he organized the prestigious NC golf panel to rate the state’s golf courses. He was also noted for giving the North Carolina mountains the promotional name “High Country,” a byword that is now a tradition throughout the mountain area.

He was named to the North Carolina Journalism/Public Relations Hall of Fame, the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame, and the Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame. He won the Charles Kuralt Award in 2001, the Parker Award in 1975, the Winners Circle in 2010, and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine for his accomplishments and leadership in tourism. Appalachian State University named him one of North Carolina’s tourism pioneers of the 20th century.

Hensley was chairperson of Charlotte’s successful campaign for mixed beverages in 1978 and was a founder and the first chairperson of the Charlotte Convention and Visitors Bureau, now the CRVA. He was also a founder of the Sportsman’s Club of Charlotte.

He was a member of several professional organizations, including the Golf Writers Association of America and the Society of American Travel Writers, where he was a former chairperson of the Eastern chapter and national secretary-treasurer. He earned that group’s highest honor, the Marco Polo distinction.

An active civic leader, Hensley served as president of the Piedmont Club, Charlotte Skål Club, Travel Council of North Carolina, NC Sports Hall of Fame, Sportsman’s Club of Charlotte, NC Ex-FBI Agents Association., and the Charlotte Public Relations Society.

Hensley was a resident of The Cypress and served on the retirement community’s board of directors. He was a longtime member of Myers Park United Methodist Church, Charlotte Country Club, and the Country Club of North Carolina. A veteran traveler, he visited 49 states (missing North Dakota) and more than 60 foreign countries on six continents.

His hobbies were golf, hunting, skiing, and listening to Big Band music. He was well-known and admired for his unique sense of humor and outgoing personality, his deep love of family, friends, the outdoors, and the NC mountains.

Hensley was married for 51 years to the love of his life, the former Carol Moore of Raleigh. The couple had a wonderful life together until her death from lung cancer on November 24, 2006. He is survived by sons Bruce (Jill), Steven (Emily), and David; and daughter, Karen Rockecharlie, and her husband, Ned; seven grandchildren, Kristen Hensley Claghorn, Logan Hensley, Elizabeth Hensley Ames, Caroline Hensley, Patrick Hensley, Robert Rockecharlie and Tucker Rockecharlie; four great-grandchildren; and a sister, Margaret King of Asheville. He was predeceased by brothers Guy Hensley of Asheville and Charles Hensley of Burlington.

He is also survived by his dear friend and companion Marjorie James of Charlotte.

The family is grateful for the loving care and attention he received at the Stewart Health Center at The Cypress.

A memorial service will be held at 3:00 PM, Wednesday, March 30, 2022, at Myers Park Methodist Church, 1501 Queens Road, Charlotte, NC 28207. The family will receive visitors in Jubilee Hall at the church after the service.  For those unable to attend, you can join the family virtually at

Memorials may be made to Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, NC 27109), Myers Park Methodist Church, or to the donor’s favorite charity.

Share your memories & condolences


  • Carol Barrington

    Bill was one of those rare persons who always made you feel that you were really worth knowing, someone he valued. Both he and Carol seemed like personal friends who lived just around the corner, rather than half a continent away. He lived his life well, a great example to follow.

  • Dale Ann Leatherman

    I have fond memories of time spent with Bill and Carol on SATW outings. Bill had so many great golf stories to share. He was one of a kind, and will certainly be missed. Dale

  • Charles Heatherly

    Please accept my sincere condolences for the death of your father. I was fortunate to be hired by Bill and gained great experience from his leadership as state tourism director during the late 1960's. Bill implemented a professional advertising and media program that was imitated across the country.. He was a terrific promoter and the state’s tourism economy benefits today.

  • BG Metzler

    A true professional and gentleman! I so enjoyed working with Bill and Bruce at Hensley P.R.
    I loved Bill’s sense of humor as he helped me with clients…he was so guiding as I learned about PR from the best! Thank you Bill!! And thoughts and prayers for the family.

  • Beverly J. Wilson

    My deepest sympathy to the Hensley Family. I have known Bill since 1949, introduce by my husband James Wilson a childhood friend of Bills, and they crossed paths in South Pacific on Tiinian during WW2, a story which was most interesting. I will always remember the weeks spent at “The Catallooce Ranch” in Maggie Vally with a large group of Friends from. Lee Edwards High, Hosted by Bill & Carol in the1990’s and became an annual gathering for many years….He was a good person and very respected for all his accomplishments. May he rest in peace

  • T. Jerry Williams

    Thoughts and prayer's for Bill's family during this time of significant loss. He was a real inspiration to me when I became head of the NC Restaurant Association in 1969. He was a strong mentor and was most helpful to me in my work. I consider Bill a North Carolina Icon. May he rest in peace knowing he was appreciated by legions of admirers.

  • Doug

    Wonderful uncle with a wonderful family. I enjoy ed skiing with him in both north Carolina and Colorado. Great family reunions.

  • Mary Mitchell

    I am so sorry for your loss. Bill was a paragon of decency and integrity, an original of the sort we rarely find in today's world. We will miss his love of life and, most of all, his friendship. May God bless you during this time of grief.

  • Peggy Payne

    Bruce, I've long been very impressed by your dad. There was nobody better in the travel promotion business. He truly stood out, as you know. I'm glad I got to go on some of his trips. Such a fine man! And I'm sure sorry for your loss. Peggy

  • Kenneth Cohen

    Please accept my deepest condolences for your loss:

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