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ARRL General Bulletin ARLB021 (2008)

ARLB021 ARRL President Emeritus George Wilson, W4OYI, SK

QST de W1AW =20
ARRL Bulletin 21  ARLB021
From ARRL Headquarters =20
Newington CT  December 1, 2008
To all radio amateurs=20

ARLB021 ARRL President Emeritus George Wilson, W4OYI, SK
George S. Wilson III, W4OYI, of Owensboro, Kentucky, passed away at
his home on November 25. He was 76. Wilson served as the ARRL's 11th
President from January 1992-July 1995. He resigned from the position
after a stroke in 1995. Wilson's tenure in ARRL leadership included
positions as Kentucky Section Emergency Coordinator, Kentucky
Section Communications Manager, Vice Director and Director of the
Great Lakes Division, as well as Vice President and First Vice
President, eventually culminating in the position of ARRL President.

Upon retirement from the League's top position, Wilson was named
President Emeritus based on his lifelong commitment to Amateur Radio
and the League -- one of only four people granted this honor. He
also served as an Assistant Director in the Great Lakes Division.

After his stroke, which left him completely paralyzed on his left
side, Wilson stepped down after serving just over three years in the
League's top volunteer position. He told the ARRL Board of Directors
that while he felt had made progress in rehabilitation, his medical
condition prevented him from traveling and from devoting the energy
required to perform the demanding duties of the office. He expressed
his appreciation to the members of the Board for the opportunity to

Wilson told the Board's July 1995 meeting that "The League has my
undying love and support." To honor Wilson's service to the ARRL and
to Amateur Radio as a whole, the Board named him ARRL President
Emeritus. His legacy includes a near lifelong involvement in the
League's emergency and public service communications programs. He
remained active in public service and emergency communication until
his death.

Then-ARRL First Vice President Rod Stafford, W6ROD (ex KB6ZV), moved
up to fill Wilson's shoes. Upon taking the position, Stafford said
that Wilson "believed in team building, in getting people involved
and keeping them informed. That the ARRL was able to function so
seamlessly while George was incapacitated is a testimony to his own
management style."

According to ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, Wilson
suffered his stroke in February 1995 while on ARRL business in
Washington, DC. "The stroke left George physically limited," Sumner
said, "but he remained mentally active and stayed in touch with his
friends, mainly by e-mail and some CW operating. The history of the
ARRL is highlighted -- indeed, our history has been made possible --
by the extraordinary contributions of many volunteers.  With
George's death, we've lost one of the great ones."

"George was a personable individual who preferred to look at things
from a simple perspective," said current ARRL President Joel
Harrison, W5ZN. "When I attended my first ARRL Board meeting as a
young 28 year old Director, George was elected Vice President.
During time on the Board afterward, he provided me with some
valuable experience that allowed me to be an effective Director
working within the great democratic process that we benefit from.
After he experienced his terrible medical situation while serving as
ARRL President, he displayed great resilience in moving forward;
Amateur Radio not only played a part in his recovery, but a major
part of his life afterward. His involvement in Amateur Radio will be
missed, but his impact will remain. It is a sad loss."

A lawyer by profession, Wilson, according to Sumner, "played the
role of a simple small-town lawyer disarmingly well when he debated,
right up to the point where he skewered his opponent with surgical
precision. It was great fun to watch as long as you weren't the one
being skewered!"

Ohio Section Manager Joe Phillips, K8QOE, fondly remembered Wilson,
recalling a meeting he had with the ARRL President in the early
1990s: "I was seated at a table at the Findlay Hamfest in Ohio. I
had ARRL President George Wilson, W4OYI, on one side of me and
then-Great Lakes Division Director Al Severson, AB8P (SK) on the
other. They were discussing problems within the ARRL. I was
impressed at the depth of their concern for the future of the ARRL.
Al left and George stayed behind; he gave me a quick lesson on ARRL
service to the membership. He taught me the meaning of constituency
service to the membership when you wore an ARRL leadership badge. I
had only recently been appointed Ohio Section Public Information
Coordinator and I never gave membership service any real thought.
George Wilson redirected my thinking that morning. He was a real
giant in ARRL leadership, with his greatest accomplishment being an
inspiration to others. He was particularly effective because he had
that 'plain old guy' appearance, while working with a keen mind and
impressive spirit. I will miss him."

In 2004, Wilson received the Special Achievement Award, sponsored by
the Dayton Hamvention. Nominated by current ARRL Great Lakes Vice
Director Gary Johnston, KI4LA; former ARRL First Vice President
Steve Mendelsohn, W2ML, and Amateur Radio Newsline's Bill Pasternak,
WA6ITF, they noted that Wilson "spent his entire ham radio career in
devoted service to his community, to his country, to his hobby and
in service with its only national representative body. He has given
of himself because that's his nature."

Johnston, Mendelsohn and Pasternak said that "those of us close to
George knew that resigning as ARRL President was not an easy
decision for him to make, but one that he had to face. He had so
many ideas and plans for making ham radio a hobby and service to be
shared with the world. Yet he knew that his physical condition was
such that he must devote his every waking moment to 'rehab' if he
would at some later date again be able to contribute to the service
that he loved so much."

The nomination continued: "When he took office as ARRL President,
George Wilson made it clear that he would do all he could to
preserve our ham bands and make them more pleasant to operate. He
has been at the forefront of efforts in both areas. The results can
be seen in several areas of the hobby including the creation of the
vanity call sign program and a major victory in retaining Amateur
Radio access in the 902-928 MHz [33 cm] band."

His nomination recounted Wilson's beginnings as a radio amateur.
Licensed at 16, Wilson took to 40 meters with a home-brew
transmitter consisting of a 6L6 oscillator tube driving an 807
running about 30 W of power, a simple receiver and wire antenna.
"His first exposure to the world of emergency service communications
came when he was only 17 in December 1949 when the Green River
overflowed its banks and flooded the town of Calhoun, Kentucky," the
application stated. "As the emergency crystallized, relief workers
found stranded residents calling in for evacuation. Ferry boats
would go get them, only to have to turn around and go right back
because the next door neighbor had since also requested evacuation.
What was needed was communications between the relief agency in
Owensboro and the boats involved in the rescues. As there were no
cellular telephones, 2 meter handheld transceivers or repeaters in
that era, George and his comrades installed CW rigs on the two
ferries and one at the local courthouse to act as a 'dispatch.' The
system worked flawlessly and made rescue of those stranded by the
flooding more efficient. In reality, it most likely saved lives. The
die was cast and George Wilson, W4OYI, was hooked on public

In the years since his stroke, Wilson used a wheelchair, making
travel to hamfests and conventions a bit difficult. As a result, his
ham radio public service activities were limited to those he could
do from or near his home. As such, Wilson devoted much of his time
to monitoring the local repeater for those in need of assistance and
was active in the Owensboro Amateur Radio Club and ARES.

In 2003, amateurs in the Great Lakes Division created the George S.
Wilson Lifetime Achievement Award. This annual award is presented to
a Division member who has "contributed greatly to the overall
vitality of the Amateur Radio Service."

Wilson was a member of the ARRL's A-1 Operator Club and held DXCC
(CW and Mixed) with 200 countries confirmed on each.

In addition to his wife Marian (of 51 years) and his children Berry
and Jennifer, Wilson is also survived by two grandchildren, Meghan
and Rachel.

Visitations took place Friday, November 28 from 2-7 PM at the James
H. Davis Funeral Home in Owensboro; an online guestbook is
available. Services were at 10 AM at the funeral home the following
day. Wilson was interred at Elmwood Cemetery, also in Owensboro. In
lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in Wilson's name
be made to the American Red Cross.


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