Welcome Wilson, Sr. (’49, Hon. ’13)

Welcome W. Wilson, Sr.
MARCH 17, 1928 – FEBRUARY 16, 2024
Obituary of Welcome W. Wilson, Sr.

“My four passions in life are my God, my family, my country and the University of Houston.”
Welcome Wade Wilson, Sr., died on Friday, the 16th of February 2024, in Houston. He was 95 years of age. He had five children, 19 grandchildren and 24 great grandchildren. Along with their spouses, his immediate family totaled 59 people.

He was born on the 17th of March 1928, in San Angelo, Tom Green County, Texas. At age 10, in Corpus Christi, Texas, he gave his life to Christ. During World War II, he attended high school in Brownsville, where he milked two cows before going to school each morning and again in the evening before going out on dates. During his senior year of high school and first two years of junior college, he served as a newscaster on the local radio station.

On the day he graduated from the University of Houston, he married the love of his life, Joanne Guest Wilson. They were married for 74 years. Joanne continues to devote her life to her family and the fine arts community of Houston. Her passions include exercise (marathon runner), cooking (gourmet chef), gardening (flower garden at home and ranch vineyard), and painting (exhibited artist and largest gallery at the Blaffer Museum of Fine Arts at UH is named after her).

For a number of years, Welcome Sr. was Chairman of the Board of Regents at the University of Houston. He received his degree from the College of Business 75 years ago. On campus, in the College of Liberal Arts, there resides the Welcome Wilson Houston History Collaborative.

He was a Texas real estate developer for over 67 years (starting in 1957). His early development projects included Jamaica Beach and Tiki Island, in Galveston. Other Galveston projects included Spanish Grant, Sea Isle, Bermuda Beach, Terramar Beach and Treasure Island. He also developed apartment projects in Houston and Galveston, retail centers, office buildings (including three in downtown Houston) and hotels, including the 6th Marriott ever built in the world.

In the last 26 years of his career, he developed and acquired with his two sons, single tenant industrial buildings in Texas and the Southeast United States. Welcome Group, LLC. was formed with Welcome Jr. as CEO, Craig as COO and Welcome Sr. served as Chairman of the Board. He also served as a principal in the regional construction firm Kingham Dalton Wilson, having been involved in the construction business off and on over a period of almost 60 years.

In the 1960’s and 70’s, he was Chairman of the Board of two banks, Chairman of the Board of an American stock exchange company and ten percent owner of the Houston Astros Baseball Team.

His first 12 years after graduation from UH were spent in government service. He began as a staff member at the University of Houston. During the Korean War, he served for two years in Japan as a Naval Officer, having graduated first in his class at Naval Officer’s School in Monterey, California.

He became Director of Civil Defense at City Hall and Assistant to the Mayor, Judge Roy Hofheinz. He then went on to hold a position in President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Administration as Five State Director of the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization during the Cold War. His responsibilities included those of the agency now called FEMA. When he was 30 his federal agency became part of the Executive Office of the President, where he served under both Eisenhower and Kennedy.

While in government service, he was a witness to the atom bomb test in Nevada in 1954 and the hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific in 1956. At age 29, he received the Arthur Fleming Award as one of Ten Outstanding Young Men in Federal Service for his work during Hurricane Audrey which hit Cameron, Louisiana in 1957. In 1966 he served under President Lyndon B. Johnson as Special Ambassador to Nicaragua when Anastasio Somoza was President.

In 1970 he was honored as a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Houston where 42 years later he received an Honorary Doctorate Degree. In 2011, he was inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame.

Other honors include; Lifetime Achievement Award from the Houston Business Journal, Trailblazers Award from the American Advertising Federation of Houston, Crusaders Award from Houston Neighborhood Centers, Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Houston Technology Center, Distinguished Service Award from CoreNet Global, Human Relations Award from the American Jewish Committee, Community Service Award from the UH College of Technology and with his wife Joanne, the Houston Treasures Award from the Houston Social Book.

He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Houston Partnership and served as Chairman of its Higher Education Committee.

For many years he enjoyed taking annual trips with the entire family to such places as Australia, Belize, Hawaii, Puerto Vallarta, San Miguel, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, The Bahamas, Jamaica and Panama.

He worked with and mentored many family members, including John Wilson, nephew, Jason Wasaff, great-nephew, Ryan Wasaff, great-nephew and great-great nephew Josh Wilson.

Some years ago, his daughter, Cynthia Wilson Proler, developed a list titled “Things you may not know about Welcome Wilson, Sr.” The list is below.

1850 – Mother’s family entered Texas before the Civil War.

1869 – Is a fourth-generation Houstonian – great-grandchildren are seventh.

1928 – Went nameless for 22 days when parents could not agree on name; his birth announcement had pink ribbon because doctor said he would be a girl; weighed twelve pounds when born in San Angelo, Texas.

1933 – At age five, scared witless by Boris Karloff in “Bride of Frankenstein.”

1935 – Took a $3 airplane ride in Ford tri-motor plane.

1939 – Had 40 aunts and uncles and 67 first cousins.

1941 – Worked on a hog farm at age 13, picked up slop from Houston hotels.

1943 – Milked two cows each morning before going to high school.

1945 – Longshoreman on Brownsville, Texas Docks for banana boats; President of the Student Body, Brownsville Jr. College; trap drummer for 17-piece college dance band; drafted in World War II, orders cancelled when Atom Bomb ended the war; played bass fiddle in 14-piece band in college.

1946 – Hitchhiked 720 miles round trip first 30 weekends in college to see a girl; lived in Army surplus house trailer on UH campus…bathroom a block away.

1947 – Ate nothing but bananas for 13 days in college.

1948 – In college, performed as comedy act singer in night clubs; with a tank of gas and $40, spent three weeks in Mexico with brother.

1949 – Hired to regularly perform live singing commercials on TV; selected one of ten outstanding students at UH.

1951 – Naval Officer in the Occupation Forces of Japan after WWII; experienced earthquake tremors in Yokohama, Japan; attended Catholic Mass at noon seven days a week in Japan for 20 months; spent a night in a Tokyo geisha house, paid extra to sleep alone; hitchhiked in Bombardier Seat of Air Force B-26s all across America; Defense Battalion Commander in Yokosuka, Japan.

1952 – Played Ping-Pong daily in Japan with World Champion Chess Master Oswald Jacoby; lived in Japan for two years with wife and son.

1953 – Executive Assistant to Texas Oilman/Philanthropist R.E. (Bob) Smith.

1954 – Shot craps with Judge Roy Hofheinz in Las Vegas; knew Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan, Bush & Bush; Houston Chairman of March of Dimes Campaign.

1955 – Led drive to raise money to install first weather radar in Texas; installed Houston air raid sirens heard every Friday noon for 30 years; was Executive Director of the United Citizens Association of Houston, and led a Slate of Mayor and City Council Candidates to Abject Defeat.

1957 – Partner of Jack Valenti, President of the Motion Picture Association of America.

1958 – Age 30, named by President Eisenhower to the Civilian Rank of 3-Star General; watched Eisenhower hit golf balls daily from WWW Sr’s DC office; conducted hearing which changed hurricane reporting by the Weather Bureau; hunted duck in Arkansas with Gov. Orville Faubus.

1959 – Invited & Spoke to a Joint Session of New Mexico Legislature; legendary US House Speaker Sam Rayburn Came to WWSR’s Texas Office; quoted in Time Magazine about the Cold War and National Defense.

1960 – JFK came to his hotel suite at Washington Hotel for small gathering; designed and built a two-story office building 50 ft. underground.

1961 – Snowstorm flight to DC with Oklahoma Gov. for JFK Inauguration; at the Presidential Inaugurations of JFK, LBJ, GHWB & GWB.

1962 – Visited with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in his Pentagon Office.

1963 – Monday – Friday workout at health clubs for over 50 years; talked with JFK and Jackie in Houston the night before he was assassinated; friend of original seven astronauts, Alan Shepherd was his neighbor; business partner with Charlie Wilson of Charlie Wilson’s War; Chairman for Astronaut Gordon Cooper’s Houston Parade; had kids or grandkids at Kinkaid School every semester for over 50 years.

1964 – Attended Democratic Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey where LBJ was nominated; business partner of Johnny Goyen, Mayor Pro-tern of Houston 22 years.

1965 – In front page Houston Post picture with LBJ at opening of Astrodome; Investigated by the Los Angeles Times as being LBJ’s silent partner; was the subject of an Oval Office conversation between LBJ and J. Edgar Hoover; bank partner Bill Sherrill was later Member of US Federal Reserve Board.

1966 – Lived and raised five kids on River Oaks Boulevard for 30 years. Early board member, Houston Convention Bureau; developed Three Villa Marina apartment complexes in Galveston.

1967 – Rode the Salt Grass Trail Ride for over 57 years.

1968 – Developer, Foxhall Apartments on 1-10 at Chimney Rock in Houston.

1970 – Member of Harris County Grand Jury Commission; Chairman of Desperado Horseback Riding Group for years; ran three miles daily with best friend, Jimmy Lyon, for 20 years.

1971 – Billy Gibbons & Dusty Hill played at daughter’s party before becoming ZZ Top.

1972 – Testified twice before a Federal Criminal Grand Jury (Sharpstown).

1975 – To win a bet, ate 17 pecan balls at River Oaks Country Club; discovered high-rise fire, ran up 16 floors to evacuate residents.

1978 – Trapped for eight days in Boston hotel with 12 feet of snow at the door.

1980 – Shot pheasant in Scotland with Chairman/CEO of Sotheby’s; rafted through rapids for five days on River of No Return in Idaho.

1982 – Shot pheasant for 15 years in England, Scotland and Ireland, escorted movie star Gina Lollobrigida to awards dinner.

1984 – President of Mortgage Broker, River Oaks Financial Group, Inc.

1985 – Canoed regularly fifteen miles down Buffalo Bayou.

1988 – Saved best friend’s life using CPR; Founding Chairman University of Houston Heritage Society.

1989 – Almost lost at sea while swimming 100 miles off Texas coast.

1990 – Had “Lonesome Dove” author Larry McMurtry as house guest; witness to Spacecraft Endeavor liftoff from Cape Kennedy, Florida.

1997 – Board Member of AA White Dispute Resolution Institute.

2000 – Hip replaced 30 years after horseback accident.

2004 – Performed five wedding ceremonies under Texas Law.

2005 – Named Distinguished Alumnus for Texas Southmost College in Brownsville.

2007 – His signature is on 35,000 diplomas from University of Houston System; Beat prostate cancer.

2009 – Testified before five Texas Legislative Committees.

2010 – Founding Chairman of UH Graduate Real Estate Program Executive Committee.

2011 – Ate over 100 red and green frozen grapes each day.

Additionally, he was Chairman of the Drive to Tier One at the University of Houston and lived more than 34,000 days since his birth in 1928.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Dora Irene Charpiot Wilson and E.E. Jack Wilson; adored daughter and photographer, Pamela Francis Wilson; sister, Beverly Wilson Bennett Smith; brother, Jack E. Wilson and sister-in-law, Mary Lou Moffit Wilson.

He is survived by his wife, Joanne Guest Wilson; children and their spouses, Welcome Wilson, Jr. and his wife Anita Ford Wilson, Cynthia Wilson Proler, Craig Wilson and his wife Lisa Lee Wilson, Joanne Wilson Shofner and her husband David; grandchildren and their spouses, Christina Altenau and her husband Matt, Courtney McGregor and her husband Hamish, Kelly Wilson, AnnaCatherine Wilson and Welcome Wilson III, David Proler, Ryan Proler and his wife Misty Wilson Proler, Preston Proler and his wife Taryn Hunt Proler, Lauren Berry Garrow and her husband Adam, Demi McCormack and her husband Johnny, MaryClaire Wilson and fiancé Angus McCarthy, Ava Wilson, Elizabeth Patton and her husband Chase, Wilson Castleberry, Jackson Castleberry, Christian Castleberry; great-grandchildren, Anna Altenau, Blake Altenau, Jack Altenau, Lachlan McGregor, William McGregor, Michael Proler, Stella Proler, Marcus Proler, Baird Proler, Lindley Proler, Poppy Proler, Addison Garrow, Finn Garrow, Lennon Garrow, Maximilian Sander, Rhodes McCormack, “Baby” McCormack and “Baby” Patton; step-grandchildren and their spouses, Lee Shofner and his wife Kathryn Shofner, Kate Marks and her husband Brendan, Sam Shofner; step-great-grandchildren, Everlee Shofner, Kyle Shofner, Bennett Marks, Ellie Marks, Cooper Marks, Leighton Shofner; Gary Smith, brother-in-law; the children of his sister Beverly Wilson Bennett Smith, Archie Bennett III, Monty Bennett, Matt Bennett, Rene Bennett, Audra Maxwell, Alayna Bennett, Scott Smith and Douglas Smith, as well as their spouses and children; and the children of his brother Jack, Charlene Hankey, Kathi Wilson, John Wilson and Jennifer Wilson Pittman, as well as their spouses and children.

We also thank his amazing caregivers, Antonio, Mike, Tim and Tobi for their deep love and care.

Friends are cordially invited to a visitation with the family from five o’clock in the afternoon until eight o’clock in the evening on Tuesday, the 27th of February, in the library and grand foyer of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston.

A memorial service is to be conducted at eleven o’clock in the morning on Wednesday, the 28th of February, at The Church of St. John the Divine, 2450 River Oaks Boulevard in Houston, where The Rev. Dr. R. Leigh Spruill, Rector, and The Rev. Dr. Doug Richnow, Priest Associate, will officiate.

Immediately following, all are invited to greet the family during a reception at a venue to be announced during the service.

At a later date, the family will gather for a private interment.

In lieu of customary remembrances, the family requests with gratitude that memorial contributions in his name be directed to the University of Houston https://giving.uh.edu/gift (type “Welcome Wilson” in the search bar and select any of the options provided). Checks should be made payable to the University of Houston and mailed to The University of Houston, Gift Processing and Records, P.O. Box 867, Houston, Texas 77001-0867. If you have any questions about making a donation, please contact Hannah Barker at (317) 416-9723 or email hmbarker@Central.UH.EDU.

We also invite you to take a few moments to share fond memories and words of comfort and condolence with his family by selecting the “Add a Memory” icon.

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