08/10/05 — Downtown businessman Willie Simmons dies at 89

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Downtown businessman Willie Simmons dies at 89

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Published in News on August 10, 2005 1:45 PM

Willie E. Simmons Sr., one of Goldsboro's most colorful citizens, died on Friday at Wayne Memorial Hospital after collapsing in his home. He was 89.

Mr. Simmons and his wife, the late Mamie Clara Jenkins Simmons, moved to Goldsboro in the 1930s. For more than 60 years he operated several businesses downtown including a sandwich shop, a photography shop on wheels, and a record shop, but was best known for his One-Stop Pool Room on James Street.

Willie E. Simmons Sr.


After many years he was able to buy the James Street building. At one time he was very active as a much-sought after bail-bondsman. He prided himself on having a charter for a private club, the Goldsboro Friendly Club: Helping the homeless since 1965.

His family noted that "His entrepreneurial spirit led him to walk to the beat of a different drummer, but he lived life on his own terms." They added that he will be remembered for "his many pearls of wisdom and quotable sayings. When he was a photographer, he would say, "You don't know how you look until you have your picture took. " And he would often tell young children to "speak once and listen twice, that is why you have one mouth and two ears."

Although Mr. Simmons had to quit school in the eighth grade work on the family farm, he was proud that all of his children graduated from college.

His family said he enjoyed telling everyone at the Goldsboro Courthouse that his son Geoffrey was the lawyer that he produced. He also bragged about his son, Willie Jr., the engineer who went on to work in film in Hollywood, and was proud that two of his daughters graduated valedictorian from Dillard High School.

The family related that the day before his death, Mr. Simmons told his son, Geoffrey, that he was glad with his soul that his children were able to do positive things with their lives because of the sacrifices he made in his life for them.

Mr. Simmons gave up his active business life in the late 1990s to care for his ailing wife. They attended Elm Grove Church of Christ in Pikeville, where Mr. Simmons grew up. His own health began to fail two years ago.

His surviving sons and daughters are Dr. E. Joyce Roland of Durham, Clara D. Simmons and Lois S. Isler, Willie E. Simmons Jr. of Los Angeles Calif., and Geoffrey H. Simmons of Raleigh. He also is survived by 10 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, along with his four brothers, Theodore Dorphas "Teddy" Simmons of Moorhead, Miss., Larry Homer Simmons of Chicago, Ill., Lynn Delano Simmons of Niles, Mich., and Simuel Roosevelt Simmons, and his sister, Teaner Ramain Leathers.

His funeral will be held on Thursday morning at 11 at St. Mark Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, 700 W. Ash St. The Rev. T.O. Nixon will conduct the service. Burial will be in Elmwood Cemetery.

The viewing will be at the church one hour prior to the service.

Lightner Memorial Funeral Home is serving the family and online condolences may be sent to lightnermfh@nuvox.net.

The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Willie E. Simmons, Sr. Memorial Fund. Checks can be made to Dr. E. Joyce Roland, 125 Hidden Springs Drive, Durham, NC 27703.