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Bill Riddick was born on March 13, 1938, in Hertford County, N.C. Following high school, Bill attended North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Engineering. After working as an agricultural engineer for three and one-half years, Bill decided that he had missed his calling. He returned to graduate school at North Carolina State University, where he received a
master’s degree in Continuing Education with a special emphasis in Adult Counseling. In 1971 the N.C. Department of Health, Education and Welfare asked Bill to pick two communities where a charrette would be held to discuss school desegregation. After Winston-Salem and Durham were chosen, Bill worked closely with Durham leaders, including Ann Atwater and C.P. Ellis, on their charrette. Charette is a French term meaning “little cart.” Bill Riddick first heard about a charrette as an “intense, short-term problem-solving tool” used by engineers when designing the construction of bridges and other large-scale projects that impacted a community. The engineers would stay in a room, listening to the opinions of their colleagues and the voices of community members. All questions and issues had to be addressed before they left the room with the final plan. “I saw it as a fascinating tool to solve community problems,” he said. “The charrette brings the whole community together. The process starts with a steering committee and, hopefully, that steering committee is a microcosm of the community. This sent me looking for people who had status but didn’t have the approval of the, quote, people in charge,” Riddick said.