Bill led the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources as the agency's secretary from 2001-2009. The department in those years included 27 different divisions (environmental, natural resources, educational, and administrative), managed an annual budget of approximately $1 billion, and had 4,000 permanent and 2,300 seasonal employees. In addition, Bill was director of legal affairs for the agency from 1979-1984. Having returned to Brooks Pierce in 2009 where he had previously (1984-2001) helped to develop the firm's environmental practice, Bill now focuses as a lawyer and consultant on projects, cases and initiatives in environmental law, environmental health, natural resource conservation, military readiness, and sustainability.

In 2017, he served briefly as acting secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. In so doing, he became both the longest and shortest serving secretary of the department.

Bill served as a visiting professor in environmental science and policy at the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment from 2010-2014.

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Bill is a consultant through Texas A&M University to the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program at the U.S. Department of Defense and through North Carolina State University to the NC Sentinel Landscapes Partnership. Both programs seek to advance multiple interests (including working lands, conservation, and national defense) through innovation and collaboration.

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Recognized by his peers for inclusion in Business North Carolina's "Legal Elite" in Environmental Law (2011, 2014-2015)

Received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, presented by the Governor of NC (2008)

Received the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, Department of the Army (2008)

Received the 2008 Marvin Collins Outstanding Planning Award, NC Chapter of the America Planning Association

Received the Pelican Award, North Carolina Coastal Federation (2003)

Received the 2003 Environmental Excellence Award, Federal Highway Administration (presented to senior leadership at NC DENR and NC DOT)

Received the 2003 Clean Air Excellence Award, Regulatory/Policy Innovations, US EPA  (presented to the State of NC and multiple partners)

Chair, U.S. EPA National Advisory Council on Environmental Policy & Technology (2012-present)

Co-Chair, Research Triangle Environmental Health Collaborative (2012-present)

Vice Chair, Board of Trustees, Environmental Working Group (2010-present)

Member, Board of Trustees, Friends of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (2009-present)

Vice Chair, Board of Directors, North Carolina Audubon (2014-present)

Member, Board of Directors, North Carolina Botanical Garden Foundation (2014-present)

Member, Board of Directors, Johnson Service Corps (2014-present)

Former Chair, North Carolina Parks and Recreation Authority (2009-2013)

Former Member, Board of Trustees, North Carolina Global TransPark Authority (2012-2013)

Member, North Carolina Bar Association (1973-present)

Founding chair, section council member, and member, Environment, Energy & Natural Resources Law Section, North Carolina Bar Association (1987-present)

Member, American Bar Association (1973-present)

Organizer and speaker, Environmental Law and Health, Conservation & Sustainability Programs (1980-present)

Moderator, "Beyond Easements-Getting Communities Excited about Sentinel Landscapes,” Sustaining Military Readiness Conference, St. Louis, MO, August 2018

Moderator, " Unconventional Partnerships: Sustaining the Future of Military Readiness,” Sustaining Military Readiness Conference, St. Louis, MO, August, 2018

Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2014; 9: 613–627.
Published online Jun 16, 2014. doi:  10.2147/COPD.S59995
PMCID: PMC4075234
Long-term dynamics of death rates of emphysema, asthma, and pneumonia and improving air quality
Julia Kravchenko, Igor Akushevich, Amy P Abernethy, Sheila Holman, William G Ross, Jr, and H Kim Lyerly

Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1408542
Climate Change and Public Health in North Carolina: A Unique State Offers a Unique Perspective
Leah Devlin, Mikey Goralnik, William G. Ross Jr., Kimberly Thigpen Tart

In the 1990s, at a challenging time, I signed up for an Outward Bound trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California in hopes of finding some inspiration and rejuvenation. On the solo part of that hiking and camping adventure, in a spectacular mountain setting by a clear stream in the High Sierras, I read a number of quotations that were set out in the Outward Bound handbook. One of them, the final verses of Tennyson’s poem, Ulysses, inspired me then and inspires me still:  

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

The Army recognizes Sec. Bill Ross "for his unwavering support of Army sustainability efforts...He worked tirelessly with the Army to spearhead enhance the military, economic, and environmental sustainability of the southeast region.” – The Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, U.S. Army

Recent Publications & Media

Speaking Engagements


Sixteen Brooks Pierce attorneys have been recognized by their peers for inclusion in the 2015...(read more)
Brooks Pierce recently recognized the firm’s attorneys who made significant contributions to pro...(read more)
Business North Carolina Business North Carolina magazine publishes annually the " Legal Elite " -...(read more)

Recent Publications & Media