Skip to main content

William Woodard “Bill” McLendon, MD, Professor Emeritus and Vice Chair of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, former Director of the Department of Hospital Laboratories, UNC Hospitals, passed away at age 93.

William W. McLendon, MD ’56, a stalwart colleague and friend to many in the School of Medicine and UNC Hospitals communities for decades, passed away June 8 after a short illness. He will be remembered not only for his expertise in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, but as a dedicated leader, mentor, and doctor, who served from 1973-1995 as director of the UNC Hospitals Department of Hospital Laboratories and as Professor and Vice Chair of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

A medical school graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill in 1956, he and Bob Whitlock, MD ’57 were the student co-founders of the Bullitt History of Medicine Club. Along with the late Drs. William Blythe and Floyd Denny, Dr. McLendon co-authored a significant history of the state’s push for better health in Bettering the Health of the People: W. Reece Berryhill, the UNC School of Medicine, and the North Carolina Good Health Movement.

When Dr. McLendon retired in 1995, the clinical laboratories at UNC Hospitals were named the William W. McLendon Clinical Laboratories to recognize the critical role he played in their evolution to world-class status. In retirement, as Professor Emeritus of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Dr. McLendon remained an active participant in the School of Medicine community, taking a special delight in meeting students.

“Dr. Bill McLendon was instrumental in the clinical labs becoming united as one cohesive group and in the incorporation of these labs into the current Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. We are stronger together, in large part because of him. Dr. McLendon, even in retirement, remained an enthusiastic supporter and champion of the clinical labs.  He frequently emailed me brief messages to let me know how proud he was of this group, citing specific examples he either experienced first-hand or via friends and family.” – Dr. Russell Broaddus, MD, PhD, Joe W. and Evelyn M. Grisham Distinguished Professor and Chair, Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, UNC School of Medicine

“He was universally esteemed by every laboratory staff member I have ever encountered when his name would come up. I see his name and picture every day as I enter the office and it reminds me to work to be the effective, yet kind and compassionate leader I knew him to be.” – Herbert Whinna, MD, PhD, Associate Professor and Vice Chair for Clinical Services, Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, UNC School of Medicine; Medical Director of McLendon Clinical Laboratories, UNC Hospitals

The History of McLendon Laboratories

In 1952 when N.C. Memorial Hospital opened, the Department of Pathology provided Anatomic Pathology services, including Surgical Pathology, Cytopathology, Autopsy Pathology, and Neuropathology services. At that time, various clinical and basic science departments shared direction of Clinical Pathology services, with the shortcomings of this system becoming apparent by the early 1970’s. When Dr. Christopher Fordham became Dean of the School of Medicine in 1971, he consolidated the clinical laboratories, which resulted in the establishment of the Department of Hospital Laboratories and the Division of Laboratory Medicine.

In 1973, Dr. McLendon was recruited to head both of these units and to hold an academic appointment as Professor of Pathology. Under Dr. McLendon’s leadership, the clinical laboratories at UNC became widely recognized for innovation and excellence in providing Pathology and Laboratory Medicine services.

“Many of us “old timers” outside of the Dept. of Pathology were friends of Dr. McLendon and admired him greatly. He served as a mentor when I was a young faculty member and always provided insightful advice when it was most needed.” – Cynthia Powell, MD, professor of pediatrics and genetics, Division of Pediatric Genetics and Metabolism, UNC School of Medicine

In lieu of flowers the family requests contributions to the UNC Health Foundation. Please include a note indicating the contribution is in memory of Dr. William W. McLendon and designated for the L. P. McLendon Scholarship Fund (349359). Checks may be mailed to the Office of University Development, PO Box 309, Chapel Hill, NC 27514. Online donations can be made at

To plant trees in memory, please visit the Sympathy Store.

You can read more about Dr. McLendon’s legacy, here.