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Bill Norment: A legacy in black and white

By Scott Bigelow

‘This isn’t routine newspaper work, it’s art.’

William Douglas Norment was one of North Carolina’s great photographers, and The Robeson County History Museum will salute his legacy with a special exhibit on Sunday, September 24 from 2 to 5 p.m.

Norment, who was known as “Billy Doug” in his early days as sports editor of The Robesonian, was known later as “Bill” as city editor, associate editor and editor emeritus. He worked for The Robesonian over five decades and was employed part time at his death in 1998 at age 66.

The History Museum was able to procure the Norment collection thanks to a gift from his children. Photo journalism was black and white during Norment’s career, and his collection of enlarged and printed works reflect that era.

“Viewers will see a range of Bill’s work, including sports, law enforcement, family and feature photography,” said Faye Middleton, who hung the exhibit. “There is also a collection of historical photos and a selection of his professional work.”

“Because of the wide range of his work, some photos have been placed in strategic locations throughout the museum including the Military Room,” Middleton said. “We also acquired a group of negatives, which we digitized and may be seen on a large-screen TV.”

Mike Doares, past president of the History Museum, helped move the Norment collection from his Lumberton home to the Museum. Mike and his wife, Monica, organized the collection to be ready for hanging.

“When I was in high school, Bill paid me five dollars for sports photographs,” Mike Doares said. “That was a lot of money then, and he was great to work for.”

Museum vice president Scott Bigelow worked for Norment as a reporter at The Robesonian.

“Bill was a master photographer, and, in those days, that meant he was a master of the dark room,” Bigelow said. “I don’t know how many times he let me fail and bailed me out. He was a patient and soft-spoken teacher.”

“Bill had a great eye as viewers of this exhibit will see,” Bigelow said. “This isn’t routine newspaper work, it’s art.”

Norment was a life-long resident of Lumberton interrupted only by his education at Catawba College, where he played football and served as editor of the school newspaper, and a stint in the Army. He participated in Golden Gloves boxing and was an avid radio-controlled model airplane enthusiast.

Named Photographer of the Year in 1974 by the North Carolina Press Association, Norment was also named Southern Photographer of the Year. A series of his action photos of the rout of the Ku Klux Klan by Lumbee Indians in 1958 was published in Life Magazine and distributed worldwide.

Norment was married to the former Frances Kesler, and they had four children: three sons, Doug, Jamie and Stevie and one daughter, Cammie.

Founded in 1986 to coincide with Robeson County’s bicentennial celebration, the Robeson County History Musuem is located at 101 S. Elm Street. The regular hours are 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 2-4 p.m. on Sunday.


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