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Rev. Willie F. Wilson celebrates 70th birthday

By News | Last updated: Apr 7, 2014 - 9:17:29 AM

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Rev. Willie Wilson and wife, Mary Wilson. Photo: Courtney X-Powell
WASHINGTON - Best known for his socially conscious and Black awareness theology, hundreds of local and out-of-town friends and family traveling as far away as South Africa turned out at Union Temple Baptist Church to honor Rev. Dr. Willie F. Wilson on his 70th birthday.

Attending the landmark celebration were Lebo Morake, Grammy and Sama Award winner for the musical production of the Lion King, former heavyweight boxing promoter Rock Newman, world-renowned harpist Jeff Majors, Cora Masters Barry, former first lady of the District of Columbia and founder/executive director of the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, Nation of Islam Student Minister Abdul Khadir Muhammad of the Mid-Atlantic and Eastern Regions, Brenda Muhammad, Student Protocol Director of Mid-Atlantic and Eastern Regions, and Darlene Muhammad, Safiyyah Farrakhan, and Yvette Muhammad from Muhammad Mosque No. 4 protocol department.

“I was simply overwhelmed when my son, Lebo Morake from South Africa surprised me and took the 18-hour flight to come share with me. To hear all of the kind expressions from Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Rev. Jesse Jackson and others really warmed my heart,” said Rev. Wilson, senior pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church. “I was aware of the passing of Mother Khadijah’s sister and my prayers went out to her and her family even as I celebrated. As I said Saturday, I am the ‘new’ 70 and great inspiration comes to me when I look at Brother Minister Farrakhan and see how good he looks with a few more miles behind him than I,” he added.

The three hour “Love, Liberation, Leadership, and Legacy” commemoration had participants share stories of Rev. Wilson’s long commitment to the struggle of Black and people of color. His push for a prophetic mission began as early as three-years-old when he began to preach the gospel, while standing up for human rights.

“My brother Willie comes from a long line of pastors, both on our mother and father’s side,” said Mrs. Iris Branch, Rev. Wilson only remaining sibling. “Willie must have been around seven when our mother sent him to buy a chicken that was nearly four, five miles away and when Willie got home, our mother noticed that the chicken had a fowl odor. Willie being aware of how the Jim Crow South treated Black people, walked another four, five miles to return the chicken, and once he arrived, he angrily told the White owner to, ‘Take your rotten chicken!’ ” she added. “Even at three, Willie showed great journalist skills because he was always the one keeping us informed on what was going on in the house,” she chuckled.

For over 40 years, Reverend Wilson has pastored to thousands of the  “least of these,” many of whom received food, substance abuse counseling, housing services, AIDS referrals, youth intervention, and juvenile delinquent prevention services. In 1986, a local Chinese merchant disrespected a Black customer and resulted in the largest and longest sustaining boycott in Anacostia’s history. Rev. Wilson and area protesters shut down the merchant’s business, causing thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

In 1995, Minister Farrakhan asked Rev. Wilson to join the historic Million Man March as a national organizer; in 2000, the Minister Farrakhan again tapped Rev. Wilson to serve as the national executive director of the Millions More Movement. In 1997, Rev. Wilson and Union Temple Baptist received the Presidential Service Award from former President Bill Clinton, and in 1986 Rev. Wilson was recognized by USA Today, “As one of the 10 most valuable people in America.” Rev. Wilson was ordained Nana Kwado Boafo I, a Wolof priest in the Gambia, West Africa and he is the author of “Releasing the Power Within, The Genius of Jesus Revealed,” “How the African American Church Changed the Church,” and the “African American Wedding Manual.” By 2002, Rev. Wilson, launched his first time political campaign challenging incumbent D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and  won approximately 30 percent of the vote.

“For nearly five decades, Rev. Willie Wilson has stood with the Honorable Minister Farrakhan during times when it was unpopular to do so,” said Student Minister Khadir Muhammad. “It was Rev. Wilson who taught the truth of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad when no others would and his is a legacy of submission to Allah (God) that clearly demonstrates his uncompromising love for his people,” he added.

Overwhelmed by the presence of so many from childhood who told the life story of the man, his mission and love for his wife, children, grandchildren, family, adopted sons and daughters, and church family; Rev. Wilson thanked his beloved wife, Mary Wilson, Union Temple assistant pastor, without whom he said the long journey would not have been possible. He also thanked his biological and church family and friends for all that they had and continue to do in his mission.