Welcome Wilson puts pen to paper to chronicle life well spent
At 90, River Oaks resident Welcome Wilson Sr. is not slowing down and recently published his memoir that shares stories and thoughts on business, politics, marriage, family and more.
“Always Welcome: Nine Decades of Great Friends, Great Times & (Mostly) Great Deals” released Sept. 1 and offers a personal glimpse into the life of the successful Houston real estate developer, husband and family man.
When Wilson was born in March 1928 in San Angelo, Texas, he said his parents were expecting a girl but ended up getting a 12-pound boy. They struggled to come up with a good name for him. After 22 days, Wilson said his father came home and announced they would call him Welcome so he would always know he was welcome although he was not a girl.
“I have no complaints about it. A lot of people think it’s a nickname, but the thing about it is the name is so memorable,” Wilson said. “I have people come up to me and say all the time, ‘I knew your father back in the 1940s. He was in the newspapers all the time.’ Well, that wasn’t my father or my grandfather — that was me.”
Wilson spent the Great Depression years in Corpus Christi, Texas, before moving to Brownsville around World War II. He said he was due to report for the draft on Sept. 17, 1945, but the atom bombs were dropped on Japan a month earlier and the war ended, so he just missed it. He did however serve in the Navy during the Korean War.
In his early 20s, Wilson worked as an assistant to the mayor of Houston and began serving in the executive office of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and continued for five years, also under President John F. Kennedy. He was the five-state director in the department now known as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Through that role, Wilson got to personally know congressmen, senators and governors. Over the years, Wilson said he has known six U.S. presidents well, beginning with Eisenhower.
Although many people like to shy away from politics, he said being active politically can help in business and other areas.
“The book emphasizes the importance of politics. A lot of people don’t want to get mixed up in politics. I think that’s a terrible mistake,” Wilson said. “I’ve always been involved in politics, and politics is an easy way to get to know important people.”
Wilson married his wife on the same day of his University of Houston graduation. He had considered staying in politics but said she wanted him to be a businessman instead.
Wilson started developing subdivision lots in Galveston County and Houston. He then got into developing apartments, retail centers and even the sixth hotel of the Marriott corporation when it only had five properties. The hotel was by the Astrodome.
Today, Wilson still works full time as the chairman of the board at the Welcome Group, LLC, which owns and leases 87 manufacturing and industrial facilities around Texas. He stepped down as CEO 10 years ago, and now his son Welcome Wilson, Jr., serves in that role.
Hitting the gym at 5 a.m. each day, he said he walks a mile and then uses machines for 30 to 40 minutes. He said he was told after a recent run of medical tests that he is healthy.
Still married more than 69 years later, Wilson encouraged people to admit their faults in marriage and have forgiveness.
“You’ve got to remember that you’re not perfect, and you’ve got to be understanding. You’ve got to be tolerant if you want a long marriage,” he said.
With five children, 16 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren (and two more on the way), Wilson said family is very important to him.
“I think family is everything. I’ve always said my four passions are my god, my family, my country and the University of Houston,” he said. “We’re all very close. We all help each other out.”
The book has a section called “Welcome’s Rules of Order: How to Succeed in Business and Life by Avoiding My Mistakes.” It includes tips like never overreacting or issuing ultimatums, but Wilson said his biggest piece of advice for people wanting to do well in business and life is to be reliable.
“Be prepared and show up because in business, your reputation is everything.” he said.
The memoir is available on Amazon for $24.95 and at Barnes & Noble and www.brightskypress.com. Proceeds go to the Welcome Wilson Houston History Collaborative at the University of Houston, which works to track history through efforts like the “Houston History Magazine” and recording verbal histories.