Wilson Instrumental In UAFS Athletics Change, Growth

Courtesy University of Arkansas at Fort Smith Athletics Department

Since becoming a charter member of the NJCAA’s Bi-State Conference in the 1950’s to joining the ranks of NCAA Division II in 2009, UAFS evolved into one of the premier small-college athletic programs.

William H. “Bill” Wilson was influential in the program’s rise to prominence as a player, an instructor, a coach and as a friend of the program.

Wilson is one of three individuals and one team that will be inducted into the UAFS Lions Athletics Hall of Fame during Friday’s banquet at the UAFS Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center Reynolds Room. Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m.

A 1953 graduate of Fort Smith High School, Wilson was a multi-sport prep, lettering in football, basketball and track. He attracted interest from NCAA Division I programs in basketball and played his freshman season for New Mexico State University, which at the time competed in the Border Conference with Arizona, Arizona State, Texas Tech, UTEP, West Texas State and Hardin Simmons.

After one season, he returned to Fort Smith, where he attended Fort Smith Junior College and played basketball for the Lions for one season. He went on to play his final two collegiate seasons at the University of the Ozarks and, while there, he earned First Team All-Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference honors as a junior.

Wilson graduated from the University of the Ozarks with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and math physics in 1957. He served as head basketball coach at Lamar High School for one season (1956-57) and at Russellville High School for one season (1957-58).

He returned to Fort Smith Junior College in 1961 as a faculty member and was an instructor at the college until 1966. During that time, he also served as a volunteer assistant basketball coach for one season (1963-64) and head golf coach for one season (1964-65), coaching an undefeated team.

Wilson joined Plastics Research and Development Company (PRADCO) in 1966 and was a part of the “World’s Largest Manufacturer of Fish Lures and Hunting Equipment” until 2002, when he retired as president and CEO. During his time at PRADCO and after his retirement, Wilson continued to support the athletic program at what eventually evolved from Fort Smith Junior College to the UAFS.

He was a charter member of the Century Club, which was the program’s booster club, and during his long tenure as a member was recognized as the club’s Man of the Year. He served as a member of the Westark Foundation Board for 10 years (1982-1992).

Wilson was president of the Lion’s Athletic Club (formerly the Century Club) for six years (2002-08) and was named C.A. Fawcett Lion’s Athletic Club Member of the Year in 2008.

He was a member of an ad hoc advisory committee to evaluate UAFS’ move from the National Junior College Athletic Association to NCAA Division II and was chairman of the committee to raise funds to support the addition of men’s and women’s golf and tennis to the athletic program in 2004. He also served on the committee to design and erect the statue of Numa, which looks over Lions Plaza at the Stubblefield Center.