William Whatley Pierson was born in Brundige, Alabama on November 30, 1890. He attended Alabama State Normal School where he received the Ph.B. degree in 1908. Afterwards he received the B.A. (1910) and M.A. (1911) from the University of Alabama. He also earned his M.A. (1912) and Ph.D. (1916) from Columbia University, where he specialized in the politics and history of Latin America.
Pierson began his professional career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in l9l5 as an instructor. He directed the work in Latin American history and political science until he became dean of the graduate school in l930, a post he held until 1958. From June 1, 1956 to July 1, 1957, and again from September 15, 1960 to July 1, 1961, he served as Acting Chancellor of the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro).
A well-known and honored leader of the southern academic community, Pierson was a member of the Executive Board of the Southern University Conference where he served as president in 1953-1954. He also was Secretary of the Association of American Universities, 1943-1947. When he became Acting Chancellor of the Woman’s College in l956, he was Chairman of the Administrative Committee of the Southern Fellowship Fund.
Pierson was recognized as an excellent scholar of Hispanic-American history and political science. Many of his articles were published and he collaborated with Frederico G. Gil on Governments of Latin America, (McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, New York: 1957). Pierson died at his home in Mount Olive, N. C. on April 23, 1966.