Much too often we hear about all that is wrong with the Motor City, and, for that matter, urban areas throughout America. But in this supposedly negative abyss of humanity mired and stalled by lower socioeconomics, there are people who toil without monetary gain to uplift as many youth hindered by their environment as they possibly can.
Detroit’s Dott Wilson Jr. was one of those people.
He dedicated his life to the uplifting of youth using sports as his carrot to pull them into his space. His personal space was a place where discipline, character, teamwork and personal accountability were demanded.
All know that in urban America there is a preponderance of youth who come from single-parent homes and never had a male figure in their lives demanding discipline from them.
Wilson, who transitioned recently at 79, tried to fill that void left by too many absent fathers. No, he did not try, he did fill that void for many.
Dott Wilson succeeded in corporate America, ascending to high level management for Federal Credit Union. But that was only a job; his real passion was basketball and youth.
At the tender age of 19 he coached the Brewster Projects Men’s basketball teams. Then in 1962, he founded the Progressive Community Association, a community organization committed to youth development. The group continued its work through the late 1980s.
However, what was extra special was Wilson’s over 40-year involvement at Detroit Central High and Detroit’s famous St. Cecilia’s gym. That is why it was appropriate that his viewing was held at St. Cecilia Church, on the grounds where he oversaw so many young lives.
“Dott came from the era where coaches would get on you and keep you in line,” said Sam Washington Jr., who is now director of the Saint. “I remember my dad used to sit by the steps so he could see what was happening in the gym at all times. After he passed Dott took that seat and he became a landmark. I am going to make sure that seat will be empty from now on.”
In between coaching stints at Central and St. Cecilia, he took a head coaching job at Highland Park Community College.
“Dott was head coach at HPCC between 1990 to 1992,” recalled longtime PSL coach Robert Smith. “I was his assistant and we had to take van rides to games all over the state, but we did it with open hearts. That experience was a chance to give the kids the best we had, some got it and some did not, but it was not for lack of effort. Dott was a good guy, very loyal and fun to be with. He always uplifted everyone’s spirits.”
Said Eric Smith, who played football at Central and coached there, too: “Dott was a pillar in the Linwood, Dexter and Twelfth Street communities. He affected so many lives and, he did not do any of it for money. It was all about love and pas
sion. He always said, ‘Mold minds and develop kids.’”
Added longtime friend of the family Alfreda Clark: “I loved Dott, but more importantly, he was loved by everyone. What a legacy he left. For Dott it was never about money, it was about helping people. It brought him joy and he lived a good life.”
Wilson’s daughter, Ella-Salone Wilson-Jones, told reporters that if a student did not show up for school her father would go to their house to get them and bring them to class.
It was that kind of fervor to set in motion a kid’s future direction that made Dott Wilson a mentor for Detroit youth for more than 60 years, and a person who will never be forgotten.