John A. Wilson (politician)

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John A. Wilson
John A. Wilson.jpg
Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia
In office
Preceded by David A. Clarke
Succeeded by David A. Clarke
Member of the Council of the District of Columbia, Ward 2
In office
Preceded by none, position created
Succeeded by Jack Evans
Personal details
Born (1943-09-29)September 29, 1943
Baltimore, Maryland
Died May 19, 1993(1993-05-19) (aged 49)
Washington, D.C.
Nationality American
Spouse(s) Bonnie Brio Wilson
Occupation politician

John A. Wilson (September 29, 1943, Baltimore, Maryland – May 19, 1993, Washington, D.C.) was an American politician.


Raised by adoptive parents on the Eastern Shore, Wilson quit college to become an organizer and later national vice chairman for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. During a stint as a community organizer in New York City, he worked with Malcolm X, whom he bragged once called him "one of the funniest guys in the movement."[1][2] In 1969, Wilson became the legislative director for the National Sharecropper's Fund, an advocacy group for migrant farm workers. He helped run its Washington office for six years. In 1971, Wilson was co-chairman for the campaign of Walter E. Fauntroy, who became the city's first delegate to Congress. Wilson ran successfully for the council in 1974. In the 1960s, Wilson was active in the civil rights movement, first with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and then with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).[3] He moved to Washington, D.C., as associate director of the National Sharecroppers Fund. He was also co-chaired the District of Columbia Democratic State Committee and was elected to represent D.C. on the Democratic National Committee in 1992.

Wilson served in 1974 as the chairman of the drive to approve the referendum to adopt the Home Rule Charter for the District of Columbia. The charter allowed residents for the first time to elect both a mayor and a 13-member city council called the Council of the District of Columbia. After approval of the charter in 1974, Wilson successfully ran for election to the council, representing Ward 2, which at that time was the most diverse ward in the city. He represented Ward 2 until he was sworn in as chairman of the council on January 2, 1991. He served as chairman until his death by suicide in 1993.

During Wilson's tenure as the Ward 2 council member, he chaired the Committee on Finance and Revenue and was widely acknowledged as an expert in municipal finances. His early warnings about government overspending proved prophetic, eventually leading the U.S. Congress to establish a financial control board to oversee the city's finances for a number of years.[4]

Wilson's legislative record includes controls on converting rental housing to condominiums, gun control, rent control, and expanded medical coverage for women and children. He wrote the District's tough anti-hate crimes laws as well as its human rights law, which is one of the most comprehensive in the country.[5]


During his council years, Wilson was a Harvard Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He also attended the Senior Executive Program for State and Local Government at Harvard University.


The John A. Wilson Building was then named after him.


  1. ^ "John Wilson". The Washington Post. 20 May 1993. p. A22. 
  2. ^ Sanchez, Rene (20 May 1993). "JOHN WILSON FOUND DEAD IN APPARENT SUICIDE". The Washington Post Co. 
  3. ^ Guide to the John A. Wilson papers, 1974-1993, Special Collections Research Center, Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library, The George Washington University
  4. ^ Sanchez, Rene. "John Wilson Found Dead in Apparent Suicide: Friends Cite Depression, Anxiety About Career". 
  5. ^ Kara Swisher; Brooke A Masters (17 Sep 1989). "Police, Gay Activists See Rise In Assaults on Homosexuals: Better Statistics on 'Hate Crimes' Sought 'Gay Bashing' On the Rise, Police Say More Hate-Crime Statistics Sought". The Washington Post. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 

External links[edit]

Council of the District of Columbia
First Ward 2 Member, Council of the District of Columbia
Succeeded by
Jack Evans
Preceded by
David A. Clarke
Chairman, Council of the District of Columbia
Succeeded by
David A. Clarke