Wilson, 76, resigned his position as Mayor in December due to his declining health. His grandson, Justin, relived some memories of his Pawpaw, and highlighted the accomplishments of the man who touched many lives.
Born in Oklahoma, Wilson moved many times in his life because his father was a Methodist preacher, who was often called to a new church. Justin said Wilson attended 12 different high schools before graduating from Cave City in 1954, and his grandfather was preparing to move again after his graduation. But, as fate would have it, Wilson did not have to move, and had actually lived in the same Cave City home since 1954. He married his first wife, Rosemary Fletcher, and they had three children, Kenneth Wilson, Susie McClure and Rhonda Bradley, and six grandchildren. Rosemary was killed in a 1984 automobile accident and Wilson married Linda Smith Wilson in 1988, who still lives in the family home.
After high school, Wilson worked odd jobs for a few years before joining the fire department. Wilson was one of the original 12 men who started the Cave City Fire Department in 1959. He also worked for the water department and was the city marshal under the late Sharp County Sheriff Ray Martin. Justin explained his grandfather covered the southern end of the county as a deputy for the county, as well as being the city marshall. While a deputy, Wilson helped solve several notorious crimes in the county including a bank robbery at Sidney.
In 1961, just two years after establishing the city's fire department, Wilson became the chief, a position he held until his retirement in 1988. Wilson was responsible for three generations of Wilson men serving on the growing department. Son, Kenneth, and grandson, Justin, also served the city through the fire department. Kenneth went on to serve as chief after his father. Although retired, he still helps out at the fire department. Justin is currently serving on the department and said, "If it weren't' for papaw doing this and then dad jumping in feet first, I wouldn't be here. It gets in your blood when you are a kid." Many chiefs that followed Wilson continued to consult him about issues concerning the department until his death.
In the early part of the 1960s , Wilson, who was also a plumber, worked for the water company, which was not a part of the city at that time. It was during this time that Wilson took part in what one of one of his least known accomplishments, establishing the city's original water system.
Justin explained Cave City has an excellent water system and attributes much of the system to his grandfather. "He put all the sewer and water lines in with his crew. The system was put in the city in the 60's. He was the only one to lay lines, fix lines and read meters. If it wasn't for him setting it up the way he did, we wouldn't have this system. He put it all in downtown. He cared for the city, he loved this place."
Wilson's most recent accomplishments are perhaps the most visible of all. Cave City's claim to fame is its cave and famous watermelon crops, which led to the establishment of the popular Cave City Watermelon Festival each year. Improvements during his tenure as mayor, from 2010 until his resignation in December, included a facelift for the city park including the addition of public covered picnic areas, the installation of a new roof over the stage, improvements to the lake area, the walking track and new restroom facilities. Many who have attended recent festivals commented on the very noticeable improvements to the park.
Wilson also made a huge impact on the lives of many, although he avoided publicity. Wilson was always known to be a modest man who despised publicity and praise of any kind. Athough Wilson loved the things he did for the city, he felt they were a part of his job and never did anything for attention. Justin laughed and said, "Pawpaw would roll over if he knew he was getting all this attention in the paper."