Wilcox was born in 1931 in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, England, to John William Wilcox and Alice M. Whittle. He attended Cheltenham Grammar School and Christ's College, Finchley. He was then a training apprentice with the Outward Bound Sea School and left home to work as a deckhand in the merchant marine. In 1949 he began a career in journalism as a reporter on a weekly newspaper. After two years of national service, he moved to Fleet Street to work for the Daily Mirror, becoming a foreign correspondent in the New York bureau.
In 1960 Wilcox moved to television as a reporter on ITV's This Week current affairs programme, where he stayed for five years until joining the BBC.
He was co-editor and presenter of the landmark Man Alive series in 1965. He later formed the Man Alive Unit as well as providing the distinctive voice-over in the weekly current-affairs programme TEMPO directed by Mike Hodges.
In an interview in 1986 he said:
Real life honestly portrayed is sufficiently dramatic in itself. The idea that might lurk in some people's minds that you somehow have to beef it up, or pump it up or invent the circumstances to make it more colourful, is an idea born of Fleet Street and ignorance.
From 1972 to 1980 he was head of general features at the BBC. He made series including Americans, The Visit, Black in Blue and A Day in the Life.
After he left the staff of the BBC, Wilcox was involved in the occasional series following the story of David Jackson (David Lopez) 'the Boy David', a badly-deformed Peruvian boy (a sufferer of noma) whose face was rebuilt by a Scottish surgeon who adopted him. The series won six international awards.
Wilcox married firstly Patsy Price, and they had three children together called Claire, Adam, and Cassandra. Claire has two children, Ruby and Martha, and Cassandra has three, Rosie, Archer, and Drew. During this first marriage he had an eight-year affair with television presenter Esther Rantzen, and in 1977 he married her after obtaining a divorce from Patsy. There were three further children of this marriage, including the television presenter Rebecca Wilcox. In 1992 Wilcox converted to Judaism, the religion of his second wife. He died of a heart attack in Paddington, London, in 2000, aged 69.
Coat of Arms
On May 31, 2018 he was granted arms by the College of Arms, through Letters Patent of Garter and Clarenceux Kings of Arms. The blazoning of his arms being the following: Argent a Pile reversed bendwise Gules the point surmounted in dexter chief by a Sun in Splendour overall a three-masted Schooner in full sail Or the hull charged with a Barrulet Azure fracted with Portholes Or.; the motto reads: "Amor Vincit Omnia". He has also granted a crest, the blazoning of it being: Upon a Helm with a Wreath Argent and Azure Within a Circlet of Oak Leaves erect Vert a Horse rampant Or. Mantled Azure doubled Or.
- Esther Rantzen, The Autobiography, BBC Worldwide, 2001