John E Wilson | 2013 | Obituary

John E Wilson
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John E Wilson

Died: October 16, 2013

U.S. Veteran


Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Visitation from 2:00 PM until 7:00 PM

held at
Unity Funeral Parlors, Inc.
4114 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago IL 60653

Thursday, October 24, 2013
Visitation at 10:00 AM
Funeral at 11:00 AM

held at
Trinity United Church of Christ
400 West 95th Street
Chicago IL 60628

Pioneer Accountant - Advocate for Education

John E. Wilson, CPA, (Charitable, Personable, Accountable), accountant and entrepreneur, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, October 16, 2013.  The Chicago native was born to the union of Carrie (Simpson) and Leroy Wilson on December 9, 1932.  He had one sibling, an endearing sister, Gwendolyn Rauls, who preceded him in death.  John was raised in the Bronzeville/Grand Boulevard neighborhood of Chicago, and he and his mother were proud residents of Ida B. Wells homes.  He received his early education at Wendell Phillips elementary and high schools.  

John studied business and accounting at Northwestern University’s School of Commerce (now the Kellogg School of Management) in the fall of 1951 where he majored in business administration.  In 1954 he made history as the program’s first African-American to receive a Bachelor of Science degree.  

Upon graduation from Northwestern, John was drafted into the Navy.  He served two years aboard the U.S.S. Barton which traveled to Europe, the Middle East and South Africa where he witnessed apartheid first hand.  After an honorable discharge he returned to Chicago to pursue his aspiration to become a Certified Public Accountant.  He worked for his uncle and mentor, Arthur Jewell Wilson, Illinois’ first African-American Certified Public Accountant, and the second in the country.   In 1965, John became the 96th African-American CPA in the United States.  Over the years, his vision and leadership made a difference in the accounting profession.

John started his professional career as an auditor for the State of Illinois Commerce Commission and then as Chief Accountant for Bowey, Inc. He served as the Comptroller for Bates Packaging Company and Treasurer of Capital Food Industries, Inc.   Thirty-eight years ago, he founded and successfully managed an accounting firm, Wilson and Gills Certified Public Accountants, at a time when African-American CPAs were not only overlooked but also generally considered less qualified than their white colleagues.  Later this firm was reorganized and is known today as John E. Wilson, Ltd.  For years to follow, John not only put the name of John E. Wilson, Ltd. on the map but also he opened doors for many African-American accountants.

Throughout his life, John demonstrated his commitment to the economic revitalization of the African-American community.  He was a Founder and Chairman of the Board of South Side Bank.  He also served on the Board of Directors of Drexel National Bank. Additionally, John was a member of the Cole Taylor—Woodlawn Branch Advisory Board.  He proudly served as Assistant Treasurer of the Public Building Commission, where he was initially appointed by the late Mayor Harold Washington, and later by Mayor Eugene Sawyer and Mayor Richard Daley.

John met his soul-mate, Velma J. Brown, and they were married on July 24, 1960.  In 1967, John and Velma were blessed with their first daughter, Ginger Renee.   Their second blessing came in 1968 when Kelly Joanne was born.  He was a compassionate, hard working father who made it possible for his daughters to obtain multiple advanced degrees, while helping them to reach their goals in life.  He was Ginger’s biggest cheerleader and a proud investor when she launched her business legalQuest LLC in 2006.

John received numerous awards for both his professional and civic contributions.  He was a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Illinois Society of Certified Public Accountants, National Association of Black Accountants, the Union League Club of Chicago, Economic Club of Chicago, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated, and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. He was also member emeritus of the Royal Coterie of Snakes and the Forty Club of Chicago. 

He was a faithful member of Trinity United Church of Christ for over twenty years and participated in many Bible classes.  He was a man of great integrity who was a role model for sincerity, determination and selflessness.

Known by family and friends as “Big John,” he loved his family, his church, his job, traveling and sports.  Big John, with his contagious smile and joking nature brightened the lives of all those that knew him.  His daughters jokingly said, “What came up, came out”, and “if he was complaining, he was OK”.  Big John was a strong but tender man who was not afraid to wear his emotions on his sleeve.  Despite his commanding presence and his big bear hugs he would cry without hesitation.

This kind and gentle man will be dearly missed by Velma, his devoted wife of 53 years, his daughters Ginger and Kelly; his “granddog” Sadie; his sisters-in-law, Thelma Merchant, Selma and Edna Brown; his brothers-in-law Reuben (Yasmeen) and Edwin Brown; his nieces Marion Rauls and Megan Brown; his nephews Frank (Therese) and Michael Merchant (Vanessa) and Omari Brown; his great-niece Sarah Merchant; his great-nephews Christopher Rauls and Joseph Merchant; his mentee and friend Jeremy Wade; his devoted caregivers Stephanie Glover and Genesis; a host of cousins; and many colleagues and friends.

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