Obituary of Willie Mae Wilson
Willie Mae Wilson age 79 of Saint Paul passed away on March 29, 2021. Willie Mae is survived by her son, Bertrand L. Wilson (Cindy), granddaughter Naomi Kiyoko, cousins — Juan Angelo Sanders, James Jackson, Annie Mae Bradley, Willie Jones, and a host of other relatives and friends. Her husband William L Wilson, First African-American elected to the St. Paul City Council, died in December 2019. Her daughter, Pelina Michele Wilson, passed in December 2014. Service 12:00 p.m. Friday April 16th at Progressive Baptist Church, 1505 Burns Ave., St. Paul 55106. Visitation 1 hour prior to the service at church (11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.). Interment in Oakland Cemetery. Willie Mae was born in Birmingham, Alabama, the only child of the late John T. Carey and the late Pelina Mae Carey Wright. She attended the public school system in Birmingham where she excelled as a scholar at Ullman High School; she was a member of the National Honor Society—where she served as President – and won the Samuel Ullman Exchange Cup Scholarship and the Ullman High School Scholarship when she graduated in May 1960. She received four (4) college scholarship awards when she graduated from Ullman, and was advised by her high school Principal–George C. Bell – to accept the one from Knoxville College (KC) in Knoxville, Tennessee –which was his alma mater. At a very young age, she joined the Bethel Baptist Church and was baptized by the Rev. Dr. David B. Todd. She sang in the Junior Choir and was a member of the Teen Usher Board. She pledged and joined the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority in 1961 during her sophomore year at KC. She was elected President of her sorority during her senior year of 1963-64. In 1962, during her Junior year, she was selected to be the first student from Knoxville College to participate in a civil rights program which exchanged students from predominantly African-American colleges in the South and predominantly White colleges in the North as part of the civil rights movement. She participated in the program from 1962 through 1963. She recently participated in the 50th year anniversary of that program with other exchange students at Macalester College. After graduation from college in May 1964, she married William (Bill) Wilson in July 1964 and they decided to make St. Paul their home because Bill had obtained a job with the 3M company. She started working on her career when she worked as a research assistant for the Minnesota State Commission Against Discrimination (SCAD). Next, she obtained a job in the Reference Room of the St. Paul Public Library. In 1966, she obtained a job the St. Paul Urban League as a Community Organizer to work in the City of St. Paul's three (3) Target Areas: Target Area “A” (Summit-University), Target Area “B” (the West Side – Dunedin Terrance), and target Area “C” (Rice Street, Roosevelt Projects, McDonald Projects) developed through the War On Poverty Program (OEO). She worked with Family Service of St. Paul –Dawson Bradshaw and Virgil Burns-- to help people obtain information about how to take action to protect their rights. She was labeled as an “instigator” by some members of the OEO board for “stirring up the people”. In 1969 she was “sent on loan” (from the Urban League) to work for the newly organized St Paul Urban Coalition, which was organized after the “St. Paul Riot” in the Summit University community, to address some of the issues and concerns raised by the community rioters. She provided staff support to Dr. Arthur Fleming, President of Macalester College, who was Chair of the Housing Committee. She worked in several positions within the Urban League including Administrative Deputy and Director of Housing. Willie Mae had a passion for education and lifelong learning. In 1970-72 she received an Urban Studies Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She used the fellowship to study at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Affairs which is now the Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and to do a 6- month internship in housing at the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council. In June 1974, she was elected by the St. Paul Urban League's Board of Directors to be the first female and the youngest President (then it was called Executive Director) and Chief Executive Officer of the agency. She served in this position for thirty (30) years and retired in December 2004. During her tenure she expanded the Urban League's programs and increased the agency's operating budgets significantly; she was the major force in the development of the S. E. Hall -Whitney Young Housing Plaza which provides affordable housing to low-income senior citizens, and the Martin Luther King Court Housing program which provides affordable housing and supportive services to low-income people who have HIV/AIDS. Throughout her career she participated in many community affairs. She served as Commissioner and Chair of the City of St. Paul's Housing and Redevelopment Authority; on the Board of Directors of the First National Bank of St. Paul; on the Board of Directors of Metropolitan State University; on the Board of Trustees of St. Paul Academy and Summit School; and on the Board of Directors of HealthPartners of Minnesota. 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Friday, April 16, 2021 12:00 PM
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