William Mark “Billy” Mauldin, Jr. graduated from Winthrop Training School and later the University of Virginia where he was a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity. The dream of becoming a pilot motivated Billy to secretly take flying lessons in Rock Hill. At the graduation, Winthrop College President Sheldon Phelps presented wings to members of the War training Service Class 43C after completing their solo flights.
Sailing to Europe
During his college breaks Billy and friends sailed to Europe several times. One trip was specifically to attend the Olympics. His daughter shared a story about one trip to England. His uncle, Fred Williams, was living in England, and Billy was to stay with him. For some reason, Fred was delayed and could not meet Billy at the ship. He sent one of his employees, supplied with a description of Billy, to meet the ship and bring Billy to his office. After several hours, the employee finally called Fred and told him everyone had left the ship and the only one standing there was a young man dressed to the hilt in Scottish tweeds with an Airedale Dog. Fred chuckled and said that was Billy! Billy brought that dog, Duke, with him when he returned to the States and the University. Duke would follow him to classes and wait outside for him to finish class. He remained by Billy’s side for many years.
After graduation from the University of Virginia, Billy followed his dream to work in New York City. He was employed on Wall Street and often visited his uncle, Fred Williams, who by that time worked in the corporate headquarters of Cannon Mills. Fred was the president of the company. Billy loved the excitement of “The City” but was not sure if it would provide the opportunities he wanted. He discussed these questions with his uncle and asked about employment opportunities with Cannon Mills. Billy received some wise advice. Fred told Billy that his father had a successful business in Rock Hill and that Billy had a choice. He could work in New York and be a small frog in a big pond, or he could return to Rock Hill to work for his father and be the big frog in a small pond. Billy talked with his father, and after he weighed his choices, he returned to Rock Hill in 1937 to work for his father.
Billy married Laura Ruff O’Neal on September 28, 1940. The couple lived at 600 College Avenue before building a home at 606 Oakwood Lane. Billy had a serpentine wall erected at the Oakwood Lane house to remind him of the same type of wall at the University of Virginia. Laura and Billy had three daughters, Laura O’Neal, Mary Elliott, and Elizabeth Bruce.
Service in WWII
Billy served his country during WWII in the Army Air Corps. His first choice was to be a pilot, but his age was a deterrent. He opted to serve as a non-commissioned officer as a gunner. He received his gunner’s wings at Las Vegas and was sent to Tampa, Florida, where Laura and daughter Laurie joined him. In September 1944, Billy served in England and was promoted to Sergeant. He was top turret gunner and assistant engineer on an MATL-17 Flying Fortress. The Oak Leaf Cluster was added to his Air Medal for meritorious achievement in aerial combat. He was waist gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber and participated in 15 daylight bombing assaults against the enemy in Europe. He served for eight months in the European Theater of the war with the Eighth Air Force. He completed 24 missions over Occupied Europe.
After the War
After the war, in 1947, Billy returned to Rock Hill and employment with the Rock Hill Coca-Cola Bottling Company. Billy replaced his father as President in 1958 and served the company in that capacity until his death in 2002. As a business leader in the Rock Hill community, Billy continued his father’s legacy to strengthen the community through participation in civic organizations such as the Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce.
The company continued to provide financial backing for diverse programs that enhanced the life of the citizens of the county.
Hobbies and Pursuits
Golf was a favorite hobby that Billy and his father shared for many years. This passion for the game motivated Billy to be a main figure in the formation of the Rock Hill Country Club. Billy remained an avid golfer until his early 80s.
In 1952 he served as Treasurer of the Rock Hill Community Chest. He served on the Board of Directors of Rock Hill National Bank from 1948 to 1989.
Billy was an avid reader, and that love for literature was the impetus for his service on the Board of Directors of the York County Public Library. Director of the York County Library, David Lyon, recalls that Billy would visit the library two or three times a week to read and check out books.
He served on the Board of the Salvation Army and was a member of Oakland Avenue Presbyterian Church for 61 years. He served on the board of deacons of the church and taught Sunday school.
His civic involvement was an example to his daughters. Laurie, Mary and Betsy recall with pride watching him ring the bells for the Salvation Army at local stores during the Christmas season. His love for books was contagious to his children. Not only did they see their father reading, he would often read to them. As adults they continue to have that love of reading.
Service to the Rock Hill Community
Returning to the community was a legacy that Billy’s father passed on to him and likewise Billy has passed the torch to his nephew, Fred Faircloth, III. It is not just a duty; it is what each man feels in his heart needs to be done out of gratitude and the desire to see their community be the best it can possibly be.