By Hubert Byrd
Everett C. Wilson was born November 28, 1885, at Butler, Missouri, the son of James T. and Rhoda A. (Gasaway) Wilson. He began school in a tiny, one-room building called Marshall School near Butler in Bates county, the same school his mother and father had attended in their youth. It had solid walnut "black-boards" and possessed the rugged simplicity common in schools of those days. While in his early years his family moved to another farm, and Everett experienced nostalgia for the first time as he was separated from playmate cousins who had meant much to him.
When Everett was ten, the family moved to Vernon county, Missouri where he attended the Lefler School located on his father's farm. His eighth grade work, however, was done at Lowe School, several miles south of that farm. He rode to school every day on horseback, rain or shine, and on those early morning rides he first began to know and appreciate nature, an appreciation he never lost. His days on the farm were busy, happy ones. He enjoyed the changing seasons with their natural colors and he particularly liked "cornplanting time." In summer he learned to fish and in winter he liked to skate over the windswept ponds near his home. Hour after hour he would skate alone, for he had no brothers, and his neighbors were too far away to visit often. The lone, solitary figure, muffled in heavy wraps, could be seen skimming over the smooth ice of Kitten Creek. It was one of the pleasures he enjoyed most. When Everett was 14 his father died, and his mother, feeling that a lad of such tender years was too young to manage a farm and ride 12 miles to high school, moved to Nevada, Missouri, where the "young man" attended school. Here he formed friendships which proved fruitful. His history teacher engendered within him that passion for history which later made him an historian of the first order. This teacher was also his Sunday School teacher. From her teaching and that of his mother, he was convinced that a life of service is a Christian life. He joined the Christian Church and became an intimate friend of the pastor, Dr. Edwards, who was later made Dean of the Bible College at the University of Missouri where Wilson later matriculated. He and two of his high school friends became custodians of the church and helped to pay their school expenses by pumping the old style church organ.
He spent a summer as a lime-kiln hand at Ash Grove, Missouri. His most cherished summer, however, was the one spent prospecting in the Rocky Mountains with an old miner friend. Here he developed a love for mountains, rivers, and forests. He was not fond of shooting wild game but he tramped miles and miles through Missouri snows to visit his rabbit traps. He spent many hours digging for
treasure in Indian mounds on the farm. His collection of arrowheads grew as he followed the plow in spring planting.
At the age of nineteen he entered the State Teachers College at Springfield, Missouri. As an energetic and studious leader he was a force scholastically and in extra-curricular activities. He lettered in basketball, baseball, and tennis developing that sense of fair play which was characteristic of him throughout his life. During his senior year, 1908-1909, he was president of the senior class. After receiving his diploma he was immediately elected president of the alumni association.
In the fall after his graduation he began teaching at Connerville, a small inland community in Johnston county, Oklahoma. After teaching at Connerville for one year, he accepted the position of instructor and athletic coach in the Tishomingo High School, a position he held for two years. In 1912 he came to East Central Normal in Ada. The year 1912 was decisive, for, in addition to becoming a member of the college staff, he married Miss Bessie Cassity, of Phelps, Missouri.
Mr. Wilson began his career at East Central Normal as an instructor in English. Associated with him in this department were Miss Irma Spriggs and William Dee Little, the latter now publisher of the Ada Evening News. The classes of the department were taught in the Science Hall, the only building on the campus at that time. In the same year he became librarian. The library then contained only 507 assorted volumes. They consisted chiefly of periodicals, reports of government surveys and other miscellaneous books. He remained librarian for 30 years. At his death the library contained approximately 32,000 volumes, this growth being due to his untiring effort to make it the best. He constantly added to it state history and literature as well as modern and older works on social and economic problems, on education and philosophy, and fiction. The constant circulation of the library and Dean Wilson's ambition to make the East Central college library do greatest service to the greatest number of students, has done much to promote the growth of the institution and a desire for better reading.
His love of all literature and history coupled with a studious nature kept Mr. Wilson exploring files, catalogues and book lists from which he selected books best adapted to the study program of the college he served, and from which he continued to expand the enviable knowledge of his own favorite subjects.
While building the library at the college, he did not disregard his formal professional development. He was graduated with a B. A. degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1923 and with a B. S. degree in Library Science from Columbia University, New York City, in 1931. He maintained membership in both the Oklahoma and American Library Associations, attending most of the
conventions of those bodies. He served as President of the Oklahoma Library Association and was an active leader in it.
In 1912 he was named coach of the college girls' basketball team. In those early days the colleges of the state maintained regular scholastic competitive programs in this sport. In 1913, his second year as coach, East Central had one of its best teams, with a record of eight wins and one loss, the sole loss being to the University of Oklahoma. The following year was even better as the team closed the year with no defeats and a total of 233 points scored to only 81 for the opposition.
Mr. Wilson was named director of the interscholastic track, field, and curricular meet in the spring of 1913. The meet was held annually under his direction for 29 years. The first track meets were held on the site of the present administration building. Representation was from the schools in the counties of the East Central district and the meet grew through the years until it became recognized throughout state athletic circles as one of the state's largest and best in competition for high school athletes. It was here that Mr. Wilson had an opportunity to apply his sense of fair play. It was here, too, that he showed that rare sportsmanship which characterized his everyday life, his thoughts and actions.
The track and field meet which he directed proved to be an ideal medium through which the college could come in contact with the high schools of the district. It opened the way for a better understanding between the schools in the service area of the college and enabled the high school students to become better acquainted with it. Thus the meets he directed helped secondary school students in selecting the institution in which they desired to complete their higher education and helped the college find desirable students.
Mr. Wilson broadened his activities still further in 1916 when he became the first editor of the East Centralite, a weekly publication of the college which later developed into the present East Central Journal. He proved to be no arm-chair editor who left the work to his subordinates, for he was a man who took his responsibilities seriously. He wrote many of the news stories and handled the sports angle for which he had become eminently fitted through his association with the athletic teams of the college. His editorial columns expressed sound views of educational theory which were drawn from the study of education and from his experience. The East Centralite flourished as had everything else to which he set his hand. His keen, discerning mind and his ability properly to evaluate events and classify them through masterful technique, made the paper a decided asset to the college and the people of the district. So true is this that at one time when the paper was discontinued for lack of funds, the people who had come to appreciate it most provided a fund to establish what was the beginning of the present East Central Journal. E. C. Wilson was selected as its editor.
He relinquished his responsibility as acting editor in 1919 due to the pressure of his other school duties, but was back again in 1920, and served until 1926, when he finally gave up this phase of his duties. He remained a member of the Editorial Committee and thus while not acting editor he was always in a very definite way associated with the paper.
In 1916 he was elected secretary of the East Central Oklahoma Education Association and served faithfully for 16 years. He helped build the organization by arranging excellent programs for the meetings and working with various committees to formulate the plans. In recognition of his outstanding service, the members of the association made him a life member of the organization in 1932. An excerpt from the letter offering him the life membership reads as follows:
"Services such as you have rendered cannot be paid for; but as a constant reminder to you of our gratefulness and appreciation of those services, we ask the privilege of presenting you with a life membership in the O. E. A. Our fondest hopes and wishes are that you may live long and continue active in East Central educational circles."
Dean Wilson did not confine his activities solely to his school work, however, for in 1935, when the city commission of Ada began to formulate plans for the construction of the Ada Public Library, he was consulted as to the membership of the Library Board. After the board members were appointed they consulted him frequently about the various details connected with the construction of the building; its equipment and general arrangements were those suggested by Dean Wilson. The architect who designed the library came to him for practical ideas; thus, the beautiful structure which stands today and gives service to the city of Ada is a silent tribute to the man whose understanding of libraries helped plan it. Dean Wilson was elected president of the Library Board in 1937, serving in that capacity for four years. The men and women who showed greatest activity in bringing the library plans to fruition and making the library an intellectual center, had the highest praise for his efforts to give the public the best in library service.
For many years Mr. Wilson was an active member of the Ada Lions Club, the first of the service clubs to be organized. He served as secretary for three years and was the club's president from July 1, 1932 to June 30, 1933. As an official in this club he was active in promoting the work of the Boy Scouts and affording advantages to the underprivileged children of both urban and rural areas. He served for 12 years as chairman of the reading committee in the Pontotoc Area Boy Scout Council, including the counties of Pontotoc, Coal, Atoka, and part of Johnston. He was successful in securing cooperation of church organizations in aiding the Scouts financially. Dean Wilson's interest in reading material for the more than 900 Scouts and cubs was deep and sincere. At each council meeting he urged the Scoutmasters and Cub leaders to promote
good reading among the Scouts under their direction and encouraged them to promote subscriptions to the official Boy Scout magazine.
Mr. Wilson was for many years active in church work. He was an Elder in the Christian Church and from 1933 president of the Loyal Bible Class affiliated with that church. He had the respect of the members of that class and during his presidency it reached its greatest growth. He exemplified his religion in his daily life. He lived his Christianity.
He was fully prepared to discuss any of the phases of Oklahoma history. He enjoyed reading and talking about the development of Oklahoma. His reading was so broad and so thorough that it was difficult to mention a book or a reference on Oklahoma history that he had not evaluated. So, when the organization of the Pontotoc County Historical Society was being discussed, Mr. Wilson was anxious that it be perfected. He was zealous for the preservation of all kinds of materials of an historic nature, and interested in making them available to the public. When the Pontotoc County Historical Society was organized in January, 1941, Mr. Wilson was elected as a director. He served the organization well in this capacity by regular attendance, careful suggestion and thoughtful planning.
An issue of the East Central Journal in 1937 was dedicated to him, and prominent men and women in the state who had known him were asked by the editor to express their opinions of Dean Wilson in the dedication issue. Letters of commendation for the long period of service and his contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the section of the state which he served, were received from such men as J. L. Rader, Librarian of the University of Oklahoma; John Vaughan, President of Northeastern Teachers College at Tahlequah; Dr. A. Linseheid, President of East Central State College; Milton Keating, Secretary of the Ada Chamber of Commerce; Lyndol Swafford, Librarian of Central State Teachers College, Edmond; J. Hugh Biles, President of the, Ada Rotary Club; Maude Cowan, Librarian of Southeastern Teachers College at Durant, and many others.
It may be said without exaggeration that no institution of higher learning has had a single member on its staff who did more for it than E. C. Wilson did for East Central; first as an instructor in English and history, later as Librarian and Dean, and as director of worthy extra-curricular activities he contributed services of inestimable value. He built one of the best libraries in this State. As Dean of the College he demonstrated executive ability of no mean order. Thoroughly sympathetic with students who had problems on their hands and eager to help them in solving their problems he was unswerving in insisting on right conduct, and led by the force of character and personal example rather than by orders or commands. Thus he impressed himself on the hearts and minds of hundreds of
students and thus his spirit continues to live in those who came under his influence.
Nor was that influence confined to the college alone. In church and Sunday School, in civic clubs, through the Boy Scout organization and through the professional organizations in which he was a directing force, he allured people to the good life and led the way. He was a devoted husband, a good father, a sincere Christian, an excellent neighbor, an exemplary citizen and a loyal friend. Seldom are so many good qualities combined in one individual, and seldom indeed, is there a man in whom there is so little for which one might wish to invoke the mantle of charity. His sudden death on January 27th, 1942 called forth such tributes as it is given to few men to receive.