Esteemed educator, legendary basketball coach, and successful university president, Harrison Wilson Jr. was born on April 21, 1925, in Amsterdam, a small city in upstate New York. His mother Marguerite Ayers was a school teacher, and his father Harrison Wilson Sr. worked in construction. Dr. Wilson’s grandson is the 2014 Super Bowl champion football player and quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson.
In 1944 at the age of nineteen, Wilson enrolled at all-black Kentucky State University where he eventually received his B.A. His time at Kentucky State was interrupted, however, by a two-year period in the U.S. Navy from 1945 to 1947. While at Kentucky State, Wilson was an honor student as well as a star athlete in basketball, football, baseball, and track.
In the early 1950s, he received his master’s degree and his D.H.S. in Health Science and Administration from Indiana University. From 1948 to 1964, Dr. Wilson worked at Jackson State College (now Jackson State University) where he served as a professor, an administrator, and a basketball coach.
From 1951 to 1964, he was the head basketball coach at Jackson State, and is considered to be the architect of modern basketball at that institution. His 371-93 career record ranks him first on Jackson State University’s all-time wins list. He never had a losing season in his thirteen years at the helm of the Tigers’ program and led two of his teams to 29 win seasons in 1955 and 1963; the latter team won the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship.
Dr. Wilson served as chair of the Department of Health and Physical Education from 1960 until 1967 at Jackson State University and then served as chair and professor of health and physical education at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, from 1967 to 1970. He was assistant to the president of Fisk University in Nashville from 1970 to 1975. Later that year, he was named the third president of Norfolk State University (NSU).
His successful tenure at Norfolk spanned twenty-two years