Affectionately known as “Chief,” James Wilson’s entire 40-year career was spent teaching at Orange County Public Schools. With the exception of one semester at Evans High School, Wilson taught at Jones High School from 1950 until his retirement in 1990. A graduate of Crooms Academy in Sanford, Wilson earned his music degree at Florida A&M University.
Originally hired to teach civics and history, it was his love of music that served as the foundation of his legacy. In the early days, Wilson taught music theory and fundamentals during his free period. Those lessons expanded into after-school hours and on Saturdays. As the fledgling band program grew, Wilson went into the elementary schools to begin teaching music. As the Jones High School band program grew, it achieved a stellar reputation.
Under his leadership, the band traveled to the New York World’s Fair in 1964, the Knoxville World’s Fair in 1982, and the bi-centennial celebrations in Washington D.C. in 1976 and 1987. The band was also invited to perform at several functions for President Lyndon Johnson during his visits to Orlando. Wilson was committed to providing quality education and musical experiences for his students. He also took great pride in preparing his students for college and assisting them with obtaining scholarships.
In 1973, Wilson joined the board of the CFE Federal Credit Union, and has been instrumental in its growth over the years. His support has led to a number of CFE programs that benefit students, including the high-school branch program, operating in three OCPS high schools; a scholarship program that provides money to graduating seniors each year; the MyCFE4Schools affinity debit card program; and a five-year grant program to enrich media centers at many of our schools.
Wilson is a member of the Florida Music Educator’s Hall of Fame and the Florida Bandmasters Association Hall of Fame, and has been recognized over the years by many churches, schools and community organizations.
In 2004, Wilson’s legacy was recognized by the Orange County School Board with the naming of the newly built auditorium at Jones High School in his honor.