In memory of George W. Wilson, 1943-2005.


The American Correctional Association mourns the loss of George W. Wilson, Kentucky's first black to serve in a gubernatorial cabinet and as state corrections commissioner. Wilson died at the age of 61 on March 1 at the University of Kentucky Medical Center after suffering a heart attack.

In 1980, Wilson was appointed as commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Corrections. One year later, then-Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. elevated that post to the cabinet level. As Kentucky's corrections commissioner and as chairman of Kentucky State University's board of regents, Wilson was one of the state government's most visible executives in the 1980s. In his eight years as commissioner, the corrections cabinet led the state government in recruitment, retention and pay for women and minorities. "At the time, no black had ever exercised power in the state," Wilson told the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader in 1994. "People thought blacks would take jobs as tokens and accept it as that. But I took it serious." Wilson also served on the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections from 1982 to 1988.

Kentucky DOC Commissioner John D. Rees, who was warden of the Kentucky State Reformatory at La Grange under Wilson, said his leadership was crucial when the state was under a...

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