By: Rebecca S. Jones
HOUSTON – While many people loosely use the term “legend”, not very many people truly possess the adequate abilities and skills to be reverenced as one. However, former NFL player and successful entrepreneur Ben Ivery Wilson is one that has earned his own right. For he was birthed into a segregated society and was raised in one of the oldest Black super neighborhoods within the city; established during World War I, the Acres Homes community.
Wilson was reared with seven siblings by his father and mother, Ben and Blanche Wilson. Like so many other individuals in the community raised during this era, he and his family were poor. Yet, though they were Wilson informed during an interview that, “we were never in need – we really didn’t realize how poor we were because majority of the individuals in our community were poor as well.” Nevertheless, his parents instilled in him strong work ethics and taught him to always maintain a sense of pride and commitment to his obligations. His father was a man that loved to read. Wilson stated, “My father was the most educated, unlearned person I have ever seen in my life.” He continued, “He always had a book or paper in his hand – he believed in reading.” Although his parents worked very hard to provide for he and his siblings they did not believe in, “working for other people”. As such his mother became the owner of a restaurant in the Acres Home community known as the Trojan Club, where she sold fish and bar-b-que. His father also was a business owner, who ran a pool hall on the waterfront.
Growing up in the Acres Homes community yielded Wilson the opportunity to attend George Washington Carver High School. Although it was a segregated environment, Wilson revealed that, “it did not have anything to do with the quality of education that I received. My teachers were very instrumental in my life and taught me a lot. They taught us what they knew and I appreciate it.” To this day he still guides his life by the life lessons and teachings received from several teachers at Carver. He shared several thoughts taught to him by teachers that he still remembers and adheres to. One teacher taught him, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” While another engraved in his mind that, “Hard work cures everything!” He also reminisced of how one of his teachers gave him a Webster’s Dictionary, along with a mission to learn one new word every day. “We just had really good teachers – and they cared” Wilson stated. During his high school years, he proved to be an outstanding athlete; as this was demonstrated by his position of being selected as Co-Captain of the football team. He also played on several championship teams while at Carver.
Ultimately, Wilson shared that attending Carver was a great experience. He recollected how he would walk around the school sporting his letterman jacket. After successfully completing the required courses, he graduated from George Washington Carver High School in 1958. But not before being the first student at the school to receive the Jesse H. and Mary Gibbs Jones Scholars Award. Houston Endowment initiated the Jesse H. and Mary Gibbs Jones Scholars Program in 1958. At that time, four Jones Scholars were selected from each of the high school graduating classes in the Houston Independent School District. Since the program’s inception, Houston Endowment has provided almost $97 million to help over 11,000 Jones Scholars attend college. Yet “Local Living Legend” Ben Wilson was amongst one of the very first to receive the award.
After being names a Jones Scholar, he went on to attend the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Continuing on with the outstanding talent performed in the athletic world, during his high school years; he became the Co-Captain of the football time in college as well. He also played on championship teams while attending the university. Accordingly, he was drafted into the National Football League in 1962 and played professional football for a total of six years; four years with the Los Angeles Rams and two years with the Green Bay Packers. With his exceptional maneuvers as a running back; he started in Super Bowl II for the Green Bay Packers, where his team was victorious.”
After a prosperous career within the league, Wilson retired and went on to earn his Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Southern California in 1970. Following, he began to work for Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles. He was employed there for six years and served in the commercial banking industry. Afterwards, he worked for Houston Citizens Bank, where he was the first Black officer to be hired. Though Wilson’s career at this point had proven to be a fruitful one; undoubtedly, he was unable to deny the entrepreneurial spirit inherited by both of his parents that continually beckoned him. Hence, he made a decision to go into business for himself. As a result, he became the restaurant owner of five McDonald’s franchises, the first Black man in Texas to do so. He operated in this industry for 24 years. Since then he has also owned a mortgage company, All Pro Mortgage Services. All Pro Mortgage Service was a mortgage service that specialized in subprime loans and was located in the heart of Acres Homes. Quite often, subprime borrowers are often turned away from traditional lenders because of their low credit ratings, or other factors that suggest that they have a reasonable chance of defaulting on the debt repayment. Aware that so many people from the very community that he had grown up in were in need of purchasing a home and lacked the resources and knowledge to do so; he made a decision to give back to his roots. He operated his mortgage service up until he retired in 2006 and relocated to Arkansas to be with his son. He was there for four years and returned back to his birthplace, where he currently resides.
Today, Wilson is the proud father of 7 children, 24 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. During an interview he expressed that his first greatest thrill in life was the birth of his first-born and the second greatest was the birth of his last son. He is also a man of faith who is a member of the Church of Christ. He subscribes to the motto to, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” When asked of his views and philosophy as it relates to the Black community, Wilson stated that, “the solution to a lot of problems in the Black community could be solved by simply reading.” He continued, “This country has done terrible things to us yet even though it has – a lot of things that happen to us today are self-inflicted.” Wilson concluded that, “the lack of knowledge has really hurt our generations – and unless something drastically happens, the Black community will cease to exist.” Thus he referred back to the Acres Homes Chamber for Business and Economic Development October Monthly Networking Luncheon where State Senator John Whitmire stated that, “It all starts with an education.”
During another interview one of Wilson’s life-long friends, Mr. Charles Hobley spoke of him with high regard. He made reference to the type of character, high level of intelligence and athleticism that Wilson has always demonstrated. “We have been friends since the age of six and I just don’t have anything negative to say about him” Hobley stated. “I can remember when we used to travel to play our football games and the bus driver would drop the other players off at their home. But because we stayed in the bottom we had to walk a couple of miles to get home – we still joke about that even until this day.” He went on to speak of how Wilson owned another company, All American Restaurant & Repair Service. Hobley exclaimed, “I was going to school and he talked me into coming to work for him – ultimately I ended up operating and managing the company.” He continued, “From that experience I began servicing over 77 Taco Bell’s, McDonald’s, Denny’s and many other restaurants. My story is no different from countless other people that he has helped down through the years. All around, I just have to say that he is a really good guy!”
African-American News&Issues salutes our “Local Living Legend” for the great strides that he has made in life and for the works that he has done within the community. On October 26th, the George Washington Carver School Alumni of Aldine ISD will host their Annual Scholarship Awards Banquet. Mr. Ben Wilson will be the keynote speaker of the event. President Junell Cain of the GWCSA advised that Wilson will be honored as the first inductee for unveiling of the Wall of Fame and Heritage Room. “We are delighted to do this because Ben Wilson has made many accomplishments and we are so very proud of him” Cain stated. “As members of the GWCSA, we are dedicated to preserving our history and leaving a legacy – this milestone only adds fuel to the mission that we have set out to achieve” Cain concluded.
For more information about the GWCSA Annual Scholarship Awards Banquet contact Mrs. Junell Cain at (713) 806-9889 or email email@example.com.