In Memoriam: Bill Wilson, 1940-2019

Bill Wilson, the first African American elected to the city council in St. Paul, Minnesota, founder of the Higher Ground Academy, and former administrator at the University of Minnesota, died on December 28. He was 79 years old.

Wilson grew up in southern Indiana, where he attended racially segregated schools. He went to Knoxville College in Tennessee, on a basketball scholarship. Due to an illness, he dropped out of college and returned to Minnesota where he worked as a railway waiter while attending classes at the University of Minnesota.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, Wilson worked for 3M Corporation while studying for a master’s degree in microbiology at the University of Minnesota. In 1972, Wilson was awarded a Ford Foundation fellowship to the University of Massachusetts. There, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education.

In 1980, Wilson became the first African American elected to the St. Paul city council. He served until 1993. He then returned to the University of Minnesota, where he was coordinator of diversity programs in the College of Education and Human Development.

In 1998, Wilson founded the Higher Ground Academy, a K-12 charter school in St. Paul that is ranked among the top public schools in the state.

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