Born at Castle Hayne in New Hanover Co., NC; birth date was lost many years ago in hospital records; estimates ranged from 1897 to 1918, but the 1897 date seems most likely. He probably attended the old segregated NC school for Black deaf people in Raleigh, NC. Falsely accused of rape in 1925, he was sent to a segregated mental hospital for Blacks in Goldsboro, NC when he was found "incompetent" to stand trial; in fact, he was not mentally ill but simply deaf. He was never formally found mentally ill, and the charges were dropped, but no one ever bothered to release him. At some early point, he was castrated under an old policy covering mental patients charged with sex crimes. He was then simply forgotten by the system and by his family. In 1947, his father and sister asked for his release, but their request was denied. In 1965, the hospital was integrated; in 1970, he was recommended for release, but no surviving relatives could be found, and this was also overruled by doctors who could not communicate with him and so still considered him mentally ill. Several times in the 1970s, the hospital went to court to prevent his release. In 1980, an attempt was made to move him into a community home, but his social worker refused to place him. In 1991, Wilson's plight finally attracted the attention of another social worker who recognized Wilson's real situation, and obtained the help of two lawyers to force the hospital to release him and pay him some compensation, 67 years after he had been involuntarily committed. He was finally formally freed and was given a small cottage on the hospital grounds to live out the rest of his days. Died from pneumonia.
Deaf Life, August 1993, p.16-33.
1 July 1897-17 March 2001