Johnny Wilson’s story in the “Dash”

Johnny Myles Wilson was born on June 20, 1928 to parents Christel Ethel Jones Wilson and Phillip Wilson in Fairbanks, LA. He was the second oldest of 9 children. Johnny’s character was shaped while growing up on the family farm in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. Along with his siblings, Johnny grew spiritually and was baptized at the Evening Star No. 1 Baptist Church where his father served as a deacon.

Johnny Myles Wilson

In 1945 Johnny’s father sought and found employment in Oakland, CA. Johnny quickly developed into a man and kept the farm operating along with his mother and siblings. In 1946 his dad returned home and would pass away in 1947. Johnny, in his first year of college, quickly returned home to help his mother with his young siblings and community members, and continued working the farm.

Fulfilling his father’s desire that his children be educated, Johnny entered Grambling College (now Grambling State University) with the proceeds from the sale of a bale of cotton. Although he had never played football, Eddie Robinson discovered that he could run exceptionally fast, taught him the game, wide end receiver, and gave him a scholarship. While in college, Johnny met his sweetheart, Nathalie Callahan – the one who would become his wife four years later. In 1950, Johnny and his mother both graduated from Grambling College. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Education. In 1951, he married Nathalie on August 11th in Bunkie, LA. He later went on to earn a Master’s degree in Educational Administration at Indiana State University at Bloomington.
Johnny always believed “that the Lord would make a way somehow.” Serving as a fatherly figure, he and Nathalie helped his siblings, nieces, and nephews attend college, law school, and dental school. Five of his siblings graduated from college and all went on to do well in various careers and vocations.

Johnny entered into the US Army in 1950 and served active duty during the Korean War, and as a reservist during the Cuban Missile Crisis and thereafter. During his military career, he graduated from the Officers Advanced Course at the United States School of Logistical Science and Management, and the United States Commander and General Staff War College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. While in Rochester, he served as a battalion commander of the 98th division and brigade commander. In 1982 he retired as a full Colonel, USA reserves.

As an educator, Johnny worked as a teacher and administrator in the Ouachita and Winn Parish School systems in Louisiana. In 1969 at the height of school desegregation in the US, Johnny, Nathalie, and their 3 children relocated northward to Rochester, NY. Over the next 20 years until his retirement in 1989, he would serve as the vice principal of Benjamin Franklin High School; and principal of Madison High School and Josh Lofton High School. After retirement, he worked part time with the Urban League of Rochester and the University of Rochester Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP). He quit working because he refused to use email. Johnny felt that people should talk face to face!

Over the years, Deacon Wilson has served the Rochester community as a member of the Board of Directors for the Urban League of Rochester; the Montgomery Neighborhood Center; the Strong Memorial Hospital Adolescent Clinic and Inner City Satellite Clinic; Baden Street Settlement; and the Northhaven Adoption Agency.

Deacon Wilson’s many church, professional, community and military distinctions, accolades, awards, and honors are too numerous to list. Among them are recognitions from the Eureka Lodge #36 & AM Prince Hall; the National Association of Black Professional Women; Outstanding Educators of the 1970s: Who’s Who in Education; and the United States Congress House of Representatives. Deacon Wilson was a member of Phi Delta Kappa educational fraternity; the Association for Secondary Schools and Curriculum Development; and the School Administration Association for the State of New York. Deacon Wilson is also a proud member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. – a social development organization founded in 1911 to facilitate the growth and advancement of African American college men and the communities they serve.

The most important thing to Deacon Wilson was his family and his faith. He and Sister Wilson ran a Christian household and raised their children to be devout and biblically literate. He conducted bible study and prayer meetings at home. He loved the Lord and he loved the Christian church and all people. He loved to do good and live upright, and was always willing to encourage or help someone. As a young man in Louisiana, he served in the Sunday School and as a Boy Scout Master. At Mt. Vernon, he was a Sunday school teacher, member of the men’s chorus, and member of the Missionary Society. Deacon Wilson participated in the Great Lakes Baptist Association, the Empire Baptist Association, and the National Baptist Congress and Convention. He held a leadership role with the Empire Baptist Laymen’s department. He was an ordained Deacon at True Vine Baptist Church in Monroe, LA and later served the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church deacon board from 1969 until his passing.

Deacon Wilson loved the entire Mt. Vernon Baptist Church family and was faithful to its pastors until he could no longer participate due to illness. He also loved every pastor and every church in the city of Rochester, and spent his time mentoring young preachers from Colgate Rochester Divinity School. Deacon Wilson was serious about spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. He was invited to teach, conduct workshops and speak on many occasions around the city and State for Men’s Day, Laymen’s day and other special events.
Deacon Johnny Myles Wilson Sr. leaves to mourn Mrs. Nathalie Wilson, his devoted wife and best friend for 66 years; 3 wonderful children and their spouses; 8 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.

Rev. Dr. Johnny Myles Wilson, Jr. and wife Levonne (Springfield, MA) and granddaughter Candace (Alexandria, LA) and great-grandson Elijah (Washington, D.C.), Robert and wife Courtney (Albany, NY) and great-grandchildren Delaney and Lil Robert (Albany, NY); and Nathalie Alerte and husband Stephen (Springfield, MA) and great-granddaughter Levonne. Johnny is a pastor and retired naval veteran.

Ruperd Eichholtz Wilson and wife Frances (Elk Grove, CA) and granddaughter Sarah Yeboah and husband Kwaku (Walnut Creek, CA); granddaughter Saundra (Phoenix, AR); and grandson Ruperd (Sacramento, CA).Ruperd is a structural engineer for the State of California.

Yolanda Rose Wilson Clarke and husband Rev. Dr. Kenneth Clarke Sr. (Ithaca, NY) and their children Fatima Banister and husband Rev. Ethan Banister (Rochester, NY) and Kenneth, Jr. (Miami, FL). Yolanda is an educational administrator and faculty member at Ithaca College.

He also leaves his cherished siblings Cecil Wilson and wife Laurena (Citrus Heights, CA); Barbara Sharp (Monroe, LA); Wilson Warren Wilson and wife Georgia; Christel Sue Fontenot (Monroe, LA); Herman Lee Wilson (Charlotte, NC); and sister-in-law Carolyn Wilson of Citrus Heights, CA. Deacon Wilson was preceded in death by his sister Etheldra Wilson who died as a very small child in the early 1930s; father Philip Wilson (1947); mother Christel Wilson (2002); brother Oliver Wendell Wilson (2010); sister Vernetta Hope Caldwell (2012); and sister Blanche Brown (2016).
Deacon Wilson leaves behind a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and other relatives; godchildren Ronnie and Kay Glover, Thomas Green, Shirley Green, Joyce Alexander, and god-grandchildren TJ, Courtney, Jenny, Cheryl and Melanie; and there are many other very close families, friends, and loved ones that Deacon Johnny Wilson Sr. loved very deeply.