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Wilson, Atwood S.
Birth Year : 1895
Death Year : 1967
Atwood S. Wilson was a chemist, educator, civil rights leader and community leader in Louisville, KY. He was born in the California neighborhood of Louisville to Allen and Mary Wilson. A 1910 graduate of Central High School in Louisville, he graduated magna cum laude from Fisk University in 1915 with a major in science and mathematics. He went on to earn a B.S. in chemistry (in 1920) and a M.S. in education (in 1934) from the University of Chicago. He first taught at State Street High School, located in the Shake Rag District of Bowling Green, KY, beginning in 1915, then left the school in 1917 to serve as a chemistry researcher at the American University Experiment Station during World War I. After the war, Wilson returned to Louisville and served as secretary-treasurer of the Kentucky Negro Educational Association (KNEA) from 1922-1942. He also chaired the organization's Merger Committee, which led in the integration of Kentucky's education organizations, the KNEA and KEA. In 1928, Wilson was named the first principal of Madison Junior High [the school was later named Russell Junior High]. In 1934, Wilson became principal of Central High School and led the planning and building of the new Central High School, which opened in 1952; it was the first comprehensive high school in Kentucky. Wilson was also principal of the Central High Adult Night School, grades 1-12, from which he retired in 1963. During his tenure, he also held a number of appointments, including membership on the executive committee of the National Youth Administration in Kentucky. In 1944, Wilson was appointed a trustee on the Board of the Louisville Free Public Library, and in 1948 he presented the resolution that abolished segregation at the main library building. Wilson was the first African American in the South to be recognized with a citation for his service on a library board. He received many other awards, including the Silver Beaver Award for his distinguished service to the Boy Scouts of America, presented to him in person by President Hoover in 1933. Wilson also received an honorary Doctor of Humanities from Simmons University [Kentucky] in 1954. In recognition of his contributions, in 1974 the Kentucky Education Association co-named an award in his honor: "The Lucy Harth Smith-Atwood S. Wilson Award for Civil and Human Rights in Education." Atwood S. Wilson is mentioned in several biographies on the life of Muhammad Ali; Wilson encourage Ali [then known as Cassius Clay] to finish high school, though he was at the bottom of his class. Wilson was impressed by Ali's dedication and work ethic toward becoming a world boxing champion. In 2000, Wilson was inducted into the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights' Hall of Fame, and, in 2005, was among the first inductees to the Central High School Distinguished Hall of Fame. Atwood S. Wilson was the grandfather of Kentucky Appeals Court Judge Denise Clayton. Information for this entry was submitted by Mrs. Susie M. Guess, daughter of Atwood S. Wilson. See also pp. 20-21 in Muhammad Ali. by A. O. Edmonds.

See photo image of Atwood S. Wilson at the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights website.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Chemists, Civic Leaders, Education and Educators, Military & Veterans, Grandparents
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

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