With family roots stretching back seven generations in McDuffie County, Robert N. Wilson, Sr., was a well-known businessman, former school board member and dedicated family man.
"His family can walk taller and with great pride today because they had a family member as good as he was," said Ret. U.S. Army Gen. Dewayne Patrick, a former Thomson City Administrator. "He was just absolutely superb in every respect under the strictest of criteria."
Mr. Wilson passed away last Thursday at McDuffie Regional Medical Center. He was 83. A memorial service was held on Saturday, Sept. 27, at Thomson First United Methodist Church.
A graduate of Thomson High School, Mr. Wilson attended the University of Georgia before returning home and beginning a series of business ventures. It started with The McDuffie Oil and Fertilizer Co., and continued in partnerships with his brothers in the Wilson Furniture Co., the Cotton Patch Motel, the Wilson Ford Motor Co., Wilson Homes, and The Thomson Plaza Shopping Center. Mr. Wilson was one of the organizers of the McDuffie Bank and Trust now known as First Bank of Georgia. He was also an owner of the Wilson Company.
"The entire Wilson family has meant a lot to this community for many, many years, and he led it, and did a wonderful job in carrying out his responsibilities as a businessman and as a community leader," said Ret. Gen. Patrick, who lived across from the Wilson family's cotton gin and feed and seed business when he first moved to Thomson.
Away from the business world, Mr. Wilson also left an indelible mark on McDuffie County's political landscape. His 1970 resignation from the McDuffie County Board of Education paved the way for Joseph Greene to join the panel as its first black member.
"He and others knew that we needed a black member on the school board, so he vacated his seat so that Joe Greene could represent the black community so that integration could go forward in McDuffie County," said Mr. Wilson's nephew, Epp Wilson. "While some people didn't like it, Uncle Bob did the right thing."
A fan of the Georgia Bulldogs, Mr. Wilson was also a past president of the Thomson Rotary Club, a former scoutmaster and a dedicated member of the First United Methodist Church of Thomson. Mr. Wilson was also a proud veteran, serving aboard the USS Randolph during World War II.
Mr. Wilson is survived by one son, Robert Norman Wilson, Jr, on daughter, Virginia Wilson Goodson and was predeceased by his son Stewart Allen Wilson, all of Thomson. Mr. Wilson is also survived by seven grandchildren, Trammell Wilson, Martha Delle Wilson, Patty Bea Presley (Kempton), Robert N. Wilson, III, Virginia Stewart Goodson, Ginny Wilson, Mary Allen Wilson, and two daughters-in-law, Cindy Trammell Wilson and Pat Berry Wilson.
While Mr. Wilson thrived in the business and political world, it was on the Wilson family's farm that he felt most at home. Mr. Wilson also supported the Belle Meade Fox Hunt - a passion of his brother, James E. Wilson, Jr.
"He wasn't eat up with it like me and my father, but he supported it by helping us get new members and things like that," recalled Epp Wilson.
For Rusty Lovelace, Mr. Wilson was an "ideal," someone to model a life after.
"He was one of the outstanding pillars of the community," Mr. Lovelace said, adding that Mr. Wilson had a passion for plants. "He always was lots of fun to be around, and he did a lot of good deeds in the community that you never knew he did, anonymously. People didn't know what all he had done. We usually would all hear about it later, but he never would tell."