Two men were visionaries, built foundation for Brunswick County

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Odell Williamson and Mannon C. Gore were visionaries who could see the future for Brunswick County in ways others couldn’t even dream.

In the 1950s, the two men made lifetime-worthy investments. The former business partners purchased land that would become Ocean Isle Beach and Sunset Beach.

Last week on Friday, Gore was honored for his forward thinking and planning with the naming of the new high-rise bridge in Sunset Beach in his honor. The high-rise span stretching to Ocean Isle Beach has previously been named in Williamson’s honor.

Today, friends, family and much of Brunswick County are remembering the two for the selfless contributions they have made to our communities. 

Williamson died Sunday at 90. Gore died in 1982 at age 73.

What would Brunswick County be without the innovative thinking of these two Brunswick County men?

When others saw farmland that wouldn’t grow crops and ocean-side property prone to flooding and damage, they envisioned places where locals and visitors alike could settle down, relax and enjoy a family-friendly atmosphere while taking in the natural beauty of Brunswick County beaches.

Their dreams have been the foundation for homes for countless Brunswick Countians and the recreational playground for families from around the world who trek here each year to experience the beauty of Ocean Isle and Sunset beaches.

And while they personally prospered from their investments, the two and their families never lost sight of how important it is to give back to the community they loved.

Williamson was a public servant who served in the N.C. House of Representatives for 12 years and was Ocean Isle Beach’s first mayor in 1959. 

In addition to the Ocean Isle Beach bridge, several other Brunswick County landmarks have been named in Williamson’s and his wife’s honor—the Odell Williamson Municipal Airport, the Odell Williamson Auditorium, Virginia Williamson Events Center and Virginia Williamson Elementary School.

Gore was a former farmer with know-how and skills to turn vision into reality, building his own bridge to an undeveloped island he bought in 1955 and had already named Sunset Beach.

When the town of Sunset Beach incorporated in 1963, late Gov. Terry Sanford appointed the town’s first council members, who nominated and elected Mannon C. Gore to serve as the town’s first mayor.

These are some of the small ways the community has said thank you and honored the two pioneers for their work developing and preserving Brunswick County.

The loss of Williamson on Sunday, coupled by the previous loss of Gore, leaves a hole in Brunswick County that won’t likely be filled by others.

We send our condolences to the Williamson family and join the Gores in celebrating a milestone moment in the growth and development of Sunset Beach.

Maybe now the two are together, looking down on all of their hard work, reflecting in joy together as they see how their dreams and hard work are now reality.

Thank you, Odell Williamson and Mannon C. Gore, for all of your hard work and vision. Your dreams for Brunswick County will never be forgotten.