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James B. Wilson

Posted June 05, 2013 in Obituaries, Greene County

August 6, 1943 – June 3, 2013

James Wilson

James Wilson

James B. Wilson, 69, publisher of The Carroll Daily Times Herald for the past 36 years and a prominent western Iowa economic development advocate involved in a half-century sweep of projects and initiatives in Carroll County, died Monday afternoon at St. Anthony Regional Hospital in Carroll from congestive heart and kidney failure.

Funeral services will be held at 3 p.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church in Carroll with the Rev. Dennis Bailey officiating. A reception will follow at the Carroll Country Club. Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Dahn & Woodhouse Funeral Home in Carroll. There will be a prayer service at 7 p.m. at the funeral home.

A Carroll native, Wilson took over publishing responsibilities in 1977 following the death of his father and quickly established himself as a voice with statewide reach for progress in Carroll.

Like his father, James W. Wilson, the younger Wilson, working closely with a talented collection of peers, played a pivotal role in community affairs, including the recruitment and growth of many companies in Carroll’s thriving eastern business corridor.

Wilson, who served as vice president of the Carroll Area Development Corp., built the business relationships that led Delavan Manufacturing (Goodrich Corp.) to Carroll; helped negotiate the agreement between Des Moines Area Community College and the University of Northern Iowa bringing four-year university programs to Carroll; served on the St. Anthony Regional Hospital Foundation Board during much of the recent development of that institution; led a delegation to Washington, D.C., in 1974 to successfully lobby for federal funding for the construction of the Carroll Recreation Center; and as vice president of the Carroll Country Club, helped develop the course into an 18-hole facility.

“He was one of Carroll’s great ambassadors,” said Ron Schechtman, a former mayor of Carroll and retired chief judge of the 2nd Judicial District. “He sold Carroll wherever he went and he knew a lot people. Let’s face it, the power of the pen has got some wallop. Jim used it not to his advantage, but the advantage of his community and for the welfare of others.”

Born Aug. 26, 1943, a son of James W. and Constance Wilson, James B. Wilson starred for the Carroll High Tigers basketball team and played his way to a state high school golf championship in 1961, the year he graduated from CHS. Wilson attended the University of Missouri, his father’s alma mater, and the University of Arizona before graduating from the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

In his early 20s, Wilson worked for the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert Beck, a Centerville newspaper publisher who would lose a primary to eventual Gov. Robert Ray.

A talented golfer with a picturesque swing, Wilson qualified for the PGA Tour’s Tucson Open in 1963, played in the Canadian Open Pro-Am and captured the triple crown on the links locally in winning the Carroll Men’s City Championship, The Carroll Country Club Championship and the Carroll Municipal Championship.

Wilson considered a professional career in golf but opted for life as a third-generation newspaperman. The Carroll Daily Times Herald has been in the Wilson family since 1929. Wilson’s grandfather, Silas, served as editor of the Albia Union-Republican.

Wilson, named the Carroll Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year for 1989, established The Daily Times Herald’s Extra Effort Fund, which has raised nearly $400,000 for the less fortunate in the Carroll area over the past 24 years. He served as president of the Bill Evans Foundation for Kids, which continues to assist needy young people in the Carroll area in honor of former Carroll educator Bill Evans, a longtime Wilson friend.

Additionally, Wilson served on the DMACC Foundation Board, the Carroll County Ambulance Board, the Carroll Planning and Zoning Commission and Carroll Chamber of Commerce Board.

Early in life, Wilson forged strong ties that would blossom later into collaborative community-betterment efforts.

Pat Moehn, chairman of Commercial Savings Bank, said his friendship with Wilson became vital during the farm crisis of the 1980s as the two were part of a vanguard of business leaders in Carroll who aggressively recruited new companies, pursued the diversified mix of business that makes up the current commercial corridor.

Moehn said the commercial-development efforts came at a make-or-break time in Carroll’s history.

“People were leaving Carroll by the carloads,” Moehn said. “Families who had been here three generations, four generations of people, had to pull up stakes and leave Carroll because they lost their businesses or their jobs. It was really not a good situation. It was kind of scary.”

The team effort to rally Carroll with new employers and first-rate amenities to attract employees — seen as bold at the time — worked.

Today, Carroll County’s unemployment rate of 3.3 percent ranks as the second-lowest of Iowa’s 99 counties, trailing only Lyon County in the far northwest corner of the state with 3.1 percent.

Moehn said Wilson had a mission of making Carroll a better place.

“Somebody once said you know you had a good life if you leave things better off than you found them,” Moehn said. “To me, I think Carroll is certainly better off because Jim Wilson lived here.”

Art Neu, a former lieutenant governor and Carroll mayor, said Wilson lived his life with Carroll as a priority.

“Jim loved this area and Carroll and the area around it,” said Neu, a longtime Wilson friend. “He was always involved, and the paper always supported the urban-renewal projects, the streetscape. And he really was involved big-time in Des Moines Area Community College. Once we got the campus here, he spent an inordinate amount of time improving it.”

Schechtman, who knew Wilson since the late 1950s, said the newspaperman — a Republican Methodist — followed in the tradition of his father in holding many beliefs contrary to the popular lines of their times.

“They were in a minority as far their faith was concerned,” Schechtman said. “For a long period of time, probably not true now, they were also in the minority as to their political persuasions. But you would never know it in their reporting or the way they lived their lives. They were very fair, impartial and accepted everyone and did no favors because of one reason or another. They were good newspaper people.”

Wilson is survived by his sister, Ann Wilson of Carroll; two nephews, Douglas Burns and Thomas Burns of Carroll; and a niece, Jane Lawson of West Des Moines.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Des Moines Area Community College. St. Anthony Regional Hospital, the Carroll High School Foundation and the Bill Evans Foundation in Carroll.

Information provided by:
Dahn & Woodhouse Funeral Home
705 N. Carroll St.
Carroll, Iowa   51401

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