Willard Winston Olney, III died on June 29, 2020 at the age of 80. He was born March 22, 1940, in Newport News, Virginia to Willard W. Olney, Jr. and Ruth Evelyn Turley. “Buddy”, as he was called, was a graduate of Warwick High School, Newport News, VA.; Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, Virginia; Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Virginia; and Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.
Ordained in 1966, he was an active Presbyterian minister for 44 years, first serving a congregation in Kingsport, TN, and then churches in Hillsborough, Southern Pines, Cameron, Fayetteville, Chapel Hill, and Pinehurst, NC. He was the Presbyterian Campus Minister at NC State in Raleigh, NC where he founded and directed the Presbyterian Peacemaking Center. After his retirement he served the Vass Presbyterian Church as part-time minister for ten years.
Rev. Olney was committed to issues of peace and justice his entire ministry. He actively participated in the civil rights movement and the Vietnam era peace movement. He was arrested in Washington, DC while protesting apartheid, traveled to the West Bank in Israel, and took faculty and students to Nicaragua to protest the “Contra War”. He frequently went to both Nicaragua and Israel as a part of the Peacemaking Center’s mission. While in Chapel Hill, his congregation provided “sanctuary” for conscientious objectors to the Iraq War. Rev. Olney was a member of the NAACP and a longtime supporter of civil rights.
“Buddy” was a compassionate preacher and a wonderful storyteller. He never feared raising hard issues before his congregations. He loved politics and was a Democrat his entire adult life. He ran unsuccessfully for Moore County Commissioner and was on the Moore County Board of Elections. As a young man he was introduced by a Duke faculty member to Indian artifact hunting and spent hours in the tobacco fields of NC hunting and collecting them. He loved Civil War history, Abraham Lincoln and the moving writings on the Holocaust by Elie Wiesel and Simon Wiesenthal. They profoundly affected his theology and preaching. His favorite pastimes included discussing politics with both Democrats and Republicans, watching Duke basketball, gardening, and sharing a good bottle of scotch with family and friends.
He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Margaret (Peggy) Green Olney, his children, Willard (Will) Winston Olney IV (Sarah Hill) and Stacey Olney-Whitesell (Brad Whitesell), his four grandchildren, Emma Mertz, Katherine Mertz, Ethan Whitesell, Maggie Whitesell, and his sisters Ame Olney Hellman (Doug Hellman) and Sylvia Olney Kelley. He will also be fondly remembered by his numerous nieces, nephews and extended family and dear friends.
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