Fred Wilson Jr. has been a big part of Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church’s music ministry for many years, and at the age of 70, he plans to keep on going.
“As long as I keep my health coming on back pretty good, I’m going to stick with it,” he said.
Wilson was born in Money and raised near McIntyre Crossing. His parents had 15 children, including eight daughters and seven sons.
“It was kind of crowded, but we made it,” he said.
His father, Fred Wilson Sr., was a preacher for more than 50 years at various area churches and instilled a work ethic in the children. Fred Wilson Jr. said he started picking cotton at the age of 8 or 9, and his siblings went to work early, too. “We couldn’t stay around the house,” he said. “We all had to get out there and do something.”
He went to Wilkes Elementary and then attended Amanda Elzy High School.
He joined Mount Calvary M.B. Church early and grew up in Johnson Chapel M.B. Church in Money. Church was important in his life, and he enjoyed going and taking part in musical activities and other things.
He also found he had a talent for piano while he was in school and started playing in the auditorium around the age of 15. He developed his skills without taking any lessons or getting any help from anyone else, although it took a while before he was performing in front of others.
His mother, Rosa, had a piano at home and enjoyed singing. Once he played for her, and it went well, he said: “I did pretty good, and from then on, she started carrying me to church, and I started playing in church.”
After leaving Elzy, he worked on the T.J. Carter plantation, and when he was 19, he volunteered to drive a school bus. The reason was simple, he said: “I wanted to get out of that cotton field.”
He ended up working in the Leflore County School District bus shop for 34 years and drove school buses for more than 40. He would spend six hours a day at the shop and two hours driving.
He made sure the students on his bus knew who was in charge.
“They got adjusted to me, and I was adjusted to them,” he said. “They had to do what I said, or they didn’t ride.”
He drove a bus for Greenwood High School for a short time but had to stop for good after suffering a mild heart attack. Since then, he has been content to slow down and take it easy, periodically going to Jackson for treatments.
He said his health is much better. In fact, his doctor has told him that his heart is “twice as strong now as it was back in March.”
He remains active in church work, and not just at Little Zion, which holds services on the third Sunday of each month. He leads music at Jonah Chapel M.B. Church on the first Sunday of the month, Lockalonia M.B. Church on the second Sunday and First Baptist M.B. Church in Schlater on the fourth Sunday.
His duties at Little Zion include leading the choir, singing, playing piano — which he’s now done there for more than 40 years — and helping open the devotional part of the service. It’s a small choir, but the members get along well, and they’ve sung there long enough that he knows what they can do, he said. In fact, he said, “all my churches I’ve played for, I never have had disagreements or arguments or anything with any of them.”
He has resided in Greenwood for about 24 years and has a house on Bowie Lane. He and his wife, Charlie Mae, have been married for 34 years, and he has a grown son and two grown daughters from his first marriage.
nContact David Monroe at 581-7236 or dmonroe@