NATE Newsroom:

In MemoriamWilliam (Bill) F. Carlson

Posted on: March 27, 2019 Category: NATE News

In Memoriam

William (Bill) F. Carlson

March 1, 1937 – March 25, 2019


Bill Carlson

It is with heavy hearts that the Association announces the passing of NATE Co-Founder and Tower Systems, Inc. President & CEO William (Bill) F. Carlson. Bill passed away peacefully at his home on Monday, March 25, 2019. The NATE community extends our thoughts and prayers to Bill’s wife Ruth Lorraine Carlson, daughter Kari Carlson, daughter Kelli Anderson, son-in-law Eric Anderson and granddaughters DeLaney and Avreigh.

Bill Carlson’s illustrious career spanned over five decades as a wireless infrastructure trailblazer providing tower construction, service and maintenance in the United States and around the globe. Since 1975, he has owned and operated Tower Systems, Inc. During that time, Bill developed a reputation as a hard-working, straight shooter and attracted customers from all corners of the United States and across the globe, while always maintaining his upper Midwest values of hard work and integrity. Despite his successes, Bill also possessed a gentle, considerate spirit that earned him a reputation of caring for his employees and being generous to many causes.

In 1995, Bill demonstrated foresight and leadership in bringing together an initial group of 60 fiercely-independent tower contractors to establish the NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association, a non-profit association that provides uniform safety standards, education, communications, and serves as a unified voice for the wireless and broadcast infrastructure industries. Although a busy man, he served as a volunteer Board member to the Association for a number of years so that he could see to it that the organization got off to a good start.

One of the many ways Bill’s legacy can be measured is in the fact that today, NATE boasts over 870 member companies consisting of tower construction firms, general contractors, tower owners/vertical realtors, wireless carriers, engineering firms, public safety entities, manufacturers, distributors, technology start-ups and training companies. 

Bill was also recognized on a national scale for his contributions to the wireless industry. In September of 2014, the Wireless History Foundation inducted Mr. Carlson into the Wireless Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Las Vegas, Nevada. Bill’s 2014 induction was historic in that he became the FIRST tower contractor ever to be enshrined into the prestigious Wireless Hall of Fame. Mr. Carlson’s honor also represented a significant milestone for NATE and the prominent role the Association plays in the industry. To watch Bill Carlson’s 2014 Wireless Hall of Fame Induction Video, visit HERE.

In 2014, Bill was honored as the initial recipient of the NATE Lifetime Service Award during the NATE UNITE Conference in San Diego, California. This prestigious award, which has been named the Bill Carlson Lifetime Service Award in his honor, is awarded annually to an individual who has made a significant and long-term contribution to the success of the NATE mission and has served the Association continually for a minimum of 15 years.

“Bill was an iconic figure in the tower industry,” stated friend and business associate Craig Snyder, CEO of Sioux Falls Tower & Communications. “Bill took care of himself and his family but he was also a great uniter of people and very generous with his time and talents. That’s why in 1995 he started the NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association. To him it wasn’t enough to build a strong business for himself; he wanted everyone in this industry to benefit. I will miss Bill and his wit and wisdom. He has certainly left a legacy for those of us left behind to follow,” added Snyder.

“Bill was truly a Renaissance man in our industry,” said former NATE Chairman and long-time friend Don Doty of FDH Infrastructure Services, LLC. “After he successfully transitioned from a fledgling business to a successful operation, which took many years, he taught himself how to connect with government to stabilize and enable growth. Next he moved his operation from Minnesota to South Dakota by using tax dollars to his advantage. Bill expanded safety at his company not because of regulations, but because it was good business and his company grew because of his efforts towards safety drew the best and the brightest in the industry. I dare say, we are all better off, more informed, better educated about our industry and how government works with Bill’s influence,” Doty added. ”God Bless Bill and his family for all this man has done.”

“Bill Carlson was a mentor, leader and close friend to so many people in his life,” said business partner and former NATE Chairman Kevin Hayden of Hayden Tower Service, Inc. “He possessed a common-sense perspective and it was always so enjoyable to spend time with him. While successfully managing his own business, Bill had the forethought and vision to start NATE. NATE is a testament of how much Bill cared and gave back to the people around him. During this time of grief, my thoughts and prayers go out to Bill’s family. Bill will be missed by me and so many others,” added Hayden.

A Celebration of Life for Bill Carlson of Northwest Angle, Minnesota will be held on Tuesday, April 2nd at 12:00 PM at Helgeson Funeral Home in Roseau, Minnesota. A visitation will be held one hour prior to the service with military honors by the Roseau Memorial Honor Guard. A lunch and reception will follow at the funeral home with interment at Good Shepherd Cemetery in Angle Inlet. 

In lieu of flowers, the family’s preference is memorial donations be made in Bill Carlson’s name sent to the 501(c)(3) non-profit Tower Family Foundation. Individuals and industry stakeholders who wish to make a memorial donation in Bill Carlson’s name to the Tower Family Foundation should visit the following website link ( Donors paying by credit card should note “Bill Carlson Memorial” in the Company Field of the credit card form. Donors paying by check should note “Bill Carlson Memorial” in the Note Field of the check.