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Willie L. Wilson

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Information about Willie L. Wilson

Profile image of Willie L. Wilson

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Entrepreneur
Gospel Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Breakfast Foods
Favorite Time of Year:
July, August
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Cairo, Egypt
Favorite Quote:
Amen.

Birthplace

Born:
6/16/1948
Birth Location:
Gilbert, Louisiana

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Entrepreneur
Gospel Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Breakfast Foods
Favorite Time of Year:
July, August
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Cairo, Egypt
Favorite Quote:
Amen.

Birthplace

Born:
6/16/1948
Birth Location:
Gilbert
See how Willie L. Wilson is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Philanthropist, entrepreneur, and recording artist Willie Lee Wilson, grew up in impoverished conditions and rose to found multiple successful enterprises including Singsation!, the first nationally syndicated African-American owned and produced Gospel program on commercial television that broadcasts internationally on WGN-TV. Wilson is also one of the first black owners of a McDonald’s restaurant.

Wilson was born on June 16, 1948 in Gilbert, Louisiana. In 1970, Wilson began his career with McDonald’s doing custodial duties and mopping floors for $2 an hour. He got the opportunity to run the establishment when disgruntled employees walked out and was asked to stay on when the former managers returned. After working with McDonald’s for five years, he decided he wanted to open a McDonald’s himself and resolved to meet with McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc about the issue. Kroc agreed to give Wilson a McDonald’s restaurant after a discussion at an annual shareholders’ meeting in 1979, and with capital provided by South Shore Bank, Wilson took a suffering Chicago franchise and turned it around within a year. Wilson, while working at McDonald’s, earned honors attaining the Outstanding Store Award and Top Sales Performer Award.

In 1987, Wilson decided to start a television production company, Willie Wilson Productions, and in 1988, he was moved to pursue his faith after hearing the song, “What Shall I Render Unto the Lord?” at his church. He sold his McDonald’s restaurants to dedicate his life to Gospel music and started doing church solos and singing with the Norfleet Brothers. Ultimately, creating four albums: I'm So Grateful, Lord Don't Let Me Fail, Just A Closer Walk With Thee, Through It All and I'll Fly Away. The most recent album, I'll Fly Away is distributed by Universal and is available in stores throughout the United States. In 1989, Wilson’s Singsation! premiered, a half-hour weekly program of Gospel music. The shows’ history, artists, producers and writers are produced by his television production corporation. Singstation! is regularly hosted by Wilson and is available in over sixty million households every Sunday.

Still holding entrepreneurial ambitions, in 1997, Wilson founded Omar Medical Supplies, one of America’s fastest growing international medical supply companies and Gemini Electronics, a telecommunications company that provides competitive pricing to assist churches and non-profit community organizations in economic development and outreach.

Wilson is the recipient of a Doctor of Divinity degree from Mt. Carmel Theological Seminary, a Doctor of Humane Letters from Chicago Baptist Institute, Honorary Doctorate in Humanitarianism from Swisher Bible College and a Doctorate in Humanitarianism from Denver Institute of Urban Studies and Adult College. In November 2003, the Illinois State House of Representatives adopted resolution HR0491 in the 93rd General Assembly to honor Wilson’s successes as a member of the National Black McDonald's Owner Operator Association and his contributions to his community.

Wilson resides in Chicago, with his wife of twelve years. He is the father of four grown children.

Wilson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 16, 2008.

See how Willie L. Wilson is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Willie L. Wilson's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Willie L. Wilson lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Willie L. Wilson describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Willie L. Wilson recalls the codes of conduct in the segregated South
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Willie L. Wilson remembers the killing of Jimmy Guice
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Willie L. Wilson describes his mothers' personality
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his mother's education
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Willie L. Wilson describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Willie L. Wilson recalls the restrictions on sharecroppers in Louisiana
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Willie L. Wilson remembers his paternal grandfather's ghost stories
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his father's education
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Willie L. Wilson recalls his encounters with ghosts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Willie L. Wilson describes his relationship with his father
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Willie L. Wilson recalls his father's opinion of Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Willie L. Wilson talks about how his parents met
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Willie L. Wilson describes the influence of his mother
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Willie L. Wilson describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his experiences as a sharecropper
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Willie L. Wilson remembers the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Wisner, Louisiana
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Willie L. Wilson remembers celebrating Easter
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Willie L. Wilson describes his early education
  • Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Willie L. Wilson remembers his childhood teachers
  • Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his siblings
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his schooling in Louisiana
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Willie L. Wilson describes the traumatic impact of his early experiences of racial discrimination
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Willie L. Wilson describes his experiences as a migrant farmworker
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Willie L. Wilson remembers moving to Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Willie L. Wilson recalls working at the piano factory in Melrose Park, Illinois
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Willie L. Wilson recalls the riots of 1968 in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his reluctance to return to school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his awareness of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Willie L. Wilson talks about working for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Willie L. Wilson describes his experiences during the riots of 1968
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Willie L. Wilson remembers visiting his family in Louisiana
  • Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Willie L. Wilson recalls his start at the McDonald's Corporation
  • Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his work ethic
  • Tape: 3 Story: 14 - Willie L. Wilson recalls his start as a manager
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Willie L. Wilson remembers meeting with Ray Kroc, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Willie L. Wilson recalls an altercation with his first wife
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Willie L. Wilson remembers meeting with Ray Kroc, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Willie L. Wilson recalls the challenges of staffing a McDonald's franchise
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Willie L. Wilson talks about the role of McDonald's restaurants in African American communities
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Willie L. Wilson recalls his challenges as a McDonald's franchise owner
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Willie L. Wilson talks about the National Black McDonald's Operators Association
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Willie L. Wilson describes his career as a McDonald's franchisee
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Willie L. Wilson recalls his decision to sell his McDonald's franchises
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Willie L. Wilson remembers his return to the church
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Willie L. Wilson remembers singing with the Norfleet Brothers
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Willie L. Wilson recalls the creation of 'Singsation'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Willie L. Wilson describes the talent on 'Singsation'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Willie L. Wilson remembers the popularity of 'Singsation'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Willie L. Wilson describes the production of 'Singsation'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Willie L. Wilson describes his plans for the future of 'Singsation'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Willie L. Wilson remembers the death of his son
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his relationship with Louis Farrakhan
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Willie L. Wilson describes the operations of Omar Medical Supplies, Inc.
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Willie L. Wilson reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Willie L. Wilson reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his second marriage