James Leon Wilson, age 98, of Forrest City, died Sunday, September 25, 2022, at his home in Forrest City.
Rev. Wilson was born October 26, 1923, in Jonesboro, and was the son of Herbert and Pauline Wilkerson Wilson. He attended Jonesboro High School and graduated in 1941. During his high school years, he worked at Butler Shoe Shop. After graduation, he worked in Blytheville, Arkansas, and later went to Connecticut where he worked in the Groton Submarine Base in New London, building submarines.
In early 1943, he was inducted into the army and placed in the 295th Salvage and Repair Unit, using his skills as a shoe repairman. After basic training, and training in the desert of California, his company was shipped overseas to Europe. The repair units were bombed out early in their landing on foreign soil and he was placed in the regular army. This led to his experience of hand to hand battle and later in the Battle of the Bulge.
Returning home from the war, he moved to Blytheville, Arkansas, where he met Mary Jo Hill. She was to become his bride in January of 1949. He joined the Masonic Order in 1954, and enjoyed sixty-eight years as a Mason. He reached the rank of 33 Degree Mason and was active until his death. He served as Worshipful Master in Earle and Forrest City. He enjoyed the Eastern Star and was Worthy Patron several times in his lifetime.
He was called to preach and he entered the ministry of the United Methodist Church. During his 43 years as a pastor, he served in the following churches: Stanford-Warren’s Chapel in Tennessee; Yarbro-Promised Land; Springdale; Fort Smith; Earle; Trumann; Paragould; Marked Tree; Harrison; Newport; and Levy. He retired in 1989, but continued to serve in Wheatley and Salem until he finally retired the second time and moved to Forrest City.
During his years as a pastor, he received his education: a Bachelor of Arts from Arkansas State College, and The Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt.
During his time, four children were born to Mary Jo and Leon; Cindy, and husband, Tony, Phareta, James, and Jo Alice, and husband, Greg. In 1993, Mary Jo and Leon moved to Forrest City, where for 29 years, they lived happily until Leon’s death. In departing this life, he leaves his wife, nine grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren, two great-great-grandchildren, five nieces, two nephews, and a host of friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, a son, one sister, and three brothers.
The celebration of his life will be held at the First United Methodist Church in Forrest City, 10:00 A.M, Wednesday, with burial in Elmwood Cemetery in Blytheville. Visitation will be 5:00 till 7:00 P.M., Tuesday, at Stevens Funeral Home, with Stevens Funeral Home in charge of arrangements. Memorials are to be made to the First United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 66, Forrest City, Arkansas, 72336 or a charity of one’s choice. You may log on to stevensfuneralhome.net for the online registry.