You could say that Quaker House underwent a kind of trial by fire in 1970, and Bill Carothers was one of the firefighters who stepped in to help. Specialist William Carothers, as he was officially known, was serving with the 612th Quartermaster Company at Fort Bragg that year. As a young GI, he was an active supporter of GIs United Against the War in Vietnam (GIUAWV), which held its meetings at the newly organized Quaker House at 324 Ray Avenue in Fayetteville. Bill also helped put together and distribute the GIUAWV’s newsletter Bragg Briefs in his off-duty hours. In May of 1970, the house on Ray Avenue was firebombed, and Director JC Honeycutt whose bedroom was on the second floor, and several GIs sleeping downstairs barely got out with their lives. City authorities declared the house uninhabitable, so Quakers and supporters began to hold Meetings for Worship on the lawn in front of the charred building, watched by Army intelligence officers from across the road.
Bill had gotten a low-interest VA mortgage with a small deposit on a nearby house on Hillside Avenue after his discharge from the Army that October and set up residence there, along with JC, now his partner, and a couple of others. Knowing that Quaker House was now without a house, he offered to sign over the deed to the Friends if they could take over the payments. He and JC had also applied to the board to be taken on as co-directors, which they duly were, after some consternation about how their leftwing sympathies and (then) unconventional partnership might be viewed in those tense times. They were there until the spring of 1971, when they left for a trip to Cuba.
Thus began the sojourn of Quaker House at its present location, and the critical intervention of Bill Carothers. Fast forward to 2004, and the arrival at Hillside Avenue, after an Iraq War rally in town, of a heavyset mustached man in glasses. It was Bill. He and JC had married, had a daughter and later divorced, and Bill had become disabled after years of being a skilled metalworker. But he was still proud to see Hillside Avenue and Quaker House alive and well thirty-four years after his inspired plan to put a roof over a place of peace in a military town.
Sadly, Bill passed away in Burlington, NC, on June 15, 2017. As we celebrate 50 years of Quaker House’s witness to peace, we’ll also be honoring Bill, whose generosity and devotion helped make our mission possible at a challenging time in our history.
~Jennie Ratcliffe, Quaker House Board Member
Based on the account by Chuck Fager in Quaker House: 40 Years of Front-Line Peace Witness, by Chris McCallum. Edited by Chuck Fager. Fayetteville, NC: Quaker House, 2009.
This post originally appeared as an article in our Summer 2018 newsletter. Contact us or fill out the form on this web site if you would like to be added to our mailing list.