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Mon, 05.24.1909

Donella Brown Wilson, Voting Rights Advocate born

Donella Brown Wilson

*Donella Brown Wilson was born on this date in 1909.  She was a Black educator and voting rights advocate. 

Donella Roberta Brown Wilson on the Peterkin Plantation in Fort Motte, SC, her grandparents and great-grandparents had worked as slaves. She was the only child of the late Henry Brown and Minnie Bryant Brown Logan.  At an early age, she learned to read by the light of an oil lamp and a Sears catalog. That desire to read and write started a lifelong passion for teaching. Brown was a student at the Booker T. Washington school in Columbia.  In 1933, she earned her credentials at Allen University and became a teacher in Fort Motte in a one-room schoolhouse.

Brown was married to the late Reverend John R. Wilson, Sr. During their 66-year love affair, they raised their four children. She was a member of Union Baptist Church, where she participated in many organizations over the years. She followed and supported her husband as he served as pastor and interim pastor in several churches in the area. They were very active in the Waverly Community.  

After Wilson’s neighbor George Elmore and the NAACP successfully challenged voter suppression and the all-white Democratic primary in 1946, she and her family were among the hundreds who braved the heat and long lines to exercise their right to vote.  Ever civic-minded, she voted in every election since 1947. She was a member of many organizations, including Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., the NAACP, Household of Ruth, the South Carolina and the Richland County Retired Teachers Associations, Allen University Alumni Association, Interdenominational Alliance of Ministers Wives and Widows, Inc., the Columbia Council of Garden Clubs and the Carver Garden Club.  

Wilson was National Superintendent Emeritus of the United Order of Tents, Southern District #4. At age 107, she was an active voter and an amazing source of historical detail for journalists, scholars, and students.  In 2017, she was awarded South Carolina's highest civilian honor, the Order of the Palmetto, by Governor Henry McMaster.  Donella Brown Wilson, 108 quietly passed away on January 12, 2018.  She is survived by her four children: Shirley Wilson Clinton, Patricia Wilson Clayton, Minnie Wilson-Bivins (Marion), and John R. Wilson, Jr.; four grandchildren: Donella Clinton Richards, Taylor (Vonita) Clinton, Jr. and Robert L. Clayton (LaToya), and Jeanette Clinton Holley; two great-granddaughters, Shirley Nicole Clinton and Kirin Donella Clayton; as well as other loving relatives and dear friends, all of whom will miss her dearly.  

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