Longtime Killeen business and civic leader William “Bill” Bigham died Sunday in Temple. He was 92.
Born in Gatesville — on land later incorporated into Fort Hood — Bigham served four years in the U.S. Air Force, 20th Bomber Command, fighting in Japan during World War II.
After returning from war, he studied business at Baylor University before becoming one of Killeen’s most important business and civic leaders.
In 1967 he founded what is now Bigham Kliewer Chapman & Watts Insurance Agency and co-founded the auto dealership that is today Patriot Buick-GMC. He also was instrumental in bringing Central Texas College to Killeen.
Cleo Bay, 93, the former owner of Cleo Bay Honda, a dealership in competition with Bigham’s, described Bigham as a great friend and a “worthy opponent.”
The two served on several boards and committees together over a 30-year period in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
“Bill always was a good leader and I always enjoyed serving with him,” Bay said.
“He was a good friend and a good person to hunt with, fish or travel and just a great person to be with.”
Before starting his life as an entrepreneur, Bigham served simultaneously as the finance director, registrar, city manager and tax collector for the city of Killeen, according to previous reports.
Later he would fill many important leadership roles in the local community, including commander of American Legion Post 223, member of the Association of the United States Army and board member of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce.
“Because Bill was a ‘go-to’ person when it came to civic tasks that needed to be done, he was involved in about every facet of community service during his active business years,” said former Killeen Daily Herald editor and friend Gerald Skidmore.
Bigham sat on the GKCC board of directors from 1954 to 1961, serving one term as president in 1956.
“He believed there was more opportunity for business in the city of Killeen than anywhere in the whole world,” said Bill Kliewer, Bigham’s son-in-law and business partner at BKCW for many years. “He really loved this community.”
During the time the two worked together at BKCW, Kliewer said Bigham always remained a gentleman and an excellent business manager.
“He was a great mentor, great partner,” Kliewer said. “He was an excellent role model for a young businessman.”
Perhaps Bigham’s greatest contribution to the Fort Hood area was his advocacy for education, through securing the economic interests needed to establish Central Texas College.
Bigham served as chairman of the Board of Trustees at CTC from its founding in 1965 to 1981.
“He watched the development of CTC from a college of just 200 students to a college with enrollment in the tens of thousands,” Kliewer said.
CTC is now an international college with more than 50,000 students at more than 100 campuses on military installations, in correctional facilities, in embassies and on ships at sea, according to the CTC website.
Bigham’s lifetime of public service earned him the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce’s Roy. J. Smith Award.
Despite the many hours committed to community projects, family remained a high priority for Bigham, Kliewer said.
“He was proud of his three daughters and he was proud of his grandchildren,” he added.
Daughter Elizabeth Blackstone currently serves on the Killeen City Council. Another daughter, Mary Kliewer, is co-owner of Patriot GMC-Buick in Killeen. His youngest daughter, Nancy Uzzel, lives in Pflugerville.
A memorial service for Bigham will be Friday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, 2800 Trimmier Road.
Bigham was preceded in death by his wife, Helen, and his grandson, Phillip Uzzel.
He is survived by three daughters; five grandchildren; and his sister, Mary Roberts of Gatesville.
Contact Brandon Janes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7552