Saturday, January 01, 2000

Father of Calif. gov dies in Montgomery

James B. Wilson was ad executive

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The father of California Gov. Pete Wilson died Wednesday in Montgomery of complications from kidney failure. James B. Wilson was 97.

        Mr. Wilson, who was a prominent Midwestern advertising executive in the 1950s, was well-known for his professional skills and was involved in several civic and charitable activities.

        Gov. Wilson said his father was a model of decency, honesty and courage.

        “I learned far more of real importance and value at my father's dinner table than at Yale or law school (University of California-Berkley),” Gov. Wilson said. “Both by precept, and more importantly by example, he taught my brother and me that we were blessed to be born Americans, that we were obliged to give something back to our community, our state and our country — and to leave them better than we found them.”

        Mr. Wilson graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, where he was a roommate and fraternity brother of football legend Red Grange. He worked briefly as a reporter before turning to the business side of newspapering.

        He began his career with Scripps- Howard in Chicago and Philadelphia, and later moved up the ranks at the St. Louis Star-Times, Washington Times-Herald and the Dallas Journal. He eventually joined D'Arcy Advertising at the company's St. Louis headquarters in 1940.

        During World War II, he was account executive for McDonnell Aircraft Corp., and suggested the names for McDonnell's carrier-based fighter aircraft — the Phantom, the Voodoo and the Banshee. He later served as president of the Marines Corps League for the Greater St. Louis area.

        After the war, Mr. Wilson became involved in professional education as a frequent lecturer and contributor of articles about advertising. As president of the St. Louis Advertising Club in 1949, he was involved with clients Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, Glenmore Distilleries, McDonnell Aircraft, Hollywood Candy Co. and Standard Oil of Indiana (later Amoco and now BP-Amoco).

        While heading the Amoco account, he developed the idea of offering stranded motorists free gas or towing. His idea, called the American Freeway Patrol, was successfully implemented in California.

        Mr. Wilson also volunteered as a speechwriter and strategist for the successful campaigns of St. Louis Mayor Aloys P. Kaufmann and designed the outdoor advertising campaign for the final re-election of U.S. Sen. Robert A. Taft of Ohio.

        After retiring, he moved to Florida in 1960 and served as president of the Chamber of Commerce and head of the Community Chest for the city of Delray Beach. He also made a brief foray into politics as a city council member, successfully advocating for the development of a new beachfront park and a controversial child care center for children of African-American working mothers.

        He lived in Florida for about 30 years, but visited Ohio from time to time and moved to Montgomery five years ago. He died at Bethesda North Hospital. “He never let my brother or me get away with anything, but never failed to encourage and support our legitimate ambitions and undertakings,” said Gov. Wilson, who said his father had a sense of humor.

        Mr. Wilson's first wife of 46 years, Margaret Callaghan, died in 1970. He married Reba Morton Burns in 1975.

        In addition to his wife, of Montgomery, and Gov. Wilson, of Los Angeles, he is survived by son James Jr. of Boynton Beach, Fla. Memorial services are planned for next week in Delray Beach.

        Memorials can be made to the John and Theiline McCone Macular Disease Research Fund of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, 100 Stein Plaza, UCLA/Los Angeles, Calif., 90024-7000.


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