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Lionel Wilson (politician)

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American Political figure

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Lionel Wilson

Lionel Wilson (politician) 40mediatumblrcomdf078e45cab2d536e51bb35c65e09b

March 14, 1915New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S. (

Alma mater
University of California, Berkeley

February 23, 1998, Oakland, California, United States

Oakland, California, United States

Lionel Joseph Wilson (March 14, 1915 – February 23, 1998) was an African American political figure and a member of the Democratic Party. He was the first African American mayor of Oakland, California, serving three terms as mayor of Oakland from 1977 until 1991.


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Born March 14, 1915, Wilson was the eldest of eight children of Louise Barrios and Julius Wilson in New Orleans, Louisiana. By 1920, the family had moved to Oakland, California, where his father worked as a plasterer in building construction. Wilson was educated in the public schools, and in 1932 graduated from McClymonds High School.

Wilson attended UC Berkeley, graduating with an A.B. in economics in 1939. During 1939 to 1943, he was a semi-professional baseball player, pitching for the Oakland Larks club as part of the short-lived West Coast Negro Baseball League. On January 4, 1943, during World War II he enlisted in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of Sargeant. After his discharge, he continued his studies at University of California, Hastings College of the Law, receiving his LL.B. in 1949. In January 1950, he was admitted to the State Bar of California and began a private practice with George Vaughns.

In 1953 and 1955, Wilson ran for the Berkeley City Council. In 1960, Governor Pat Brown appointed Wilson a judge of the Alameda County Municipal Court (becoming the first African American judge in California), and then in 1964 Brown elevated Wilson to serve as a judge of the Alameda County Superior Court. In 1962, he joined the Metropolitan Oakland YMCA's Board of Directors.

In 1977, Wilson won the election for mayor of Oakland, defeating Oakland school board president, Dave Tucker. While mayor, Wilson addressed development in downtown Oakland, including extension of Bay Area Rapid Transit to the city, and two natural disasters: the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and the Oakland firestorm of 1991. In 1985, he helped celebrate Oakland as the hometown of the Pointer Sisters singing group, and named September 1 as "Pointer Sister Day." One of his chief of staffs was Mary V. King. He lost the 1990 mayoral election to Elihu Harris after making an expensive and unsuccessful bid to return the then Los Angeles Raiders to Oakland.

Wilson was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. He, along with Allen Broussard, was also part of the coterie that used to gather at the pharmacy of William Byron Rumford, another important African American in Northern California politics.

Lionel Wilson died on February 23, 1998 of cancer; he was 82.

Honors and legacy

The office building at 150 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, called the Broadway Building (formerly the First National Bank Building), is named in his honor. In 2002, Aspire Public Schools founded a small 6-12 grade school called "Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy" in Oakland. Also, at Oakland International Airport, Terminal 2, which houses Southwest Airlines and their airplane flights, is named the "Lionel J. Wilson Terminal."

Personal life

Wilson married twice. With his first wife, Robin, he had three sons: Steve, and twins Robin and Lionel. On August 12, 1950, he remarried to Dorothy P. McGuinness in Los Angeles. His brothers include Harold, Kermit, Julius and Warren Barrios Wilson, who was also an attorney in Oakland.


Lionel Wilson (politician) Wikipedia

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