Inducted: November 1, 1995
Clarence (Mike) Wilson made a major contribution to Kent County agriculture as a member and leader of farm organizations, and as the Chairman of a Conservation Authority that tackled the perennial problem of farmland flooding.
It was as the Chairman of the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority that Mr. Wilson was instrumental in persuading senior governments to underwrite most of the cost of a massive diking program, needed to protect thousands of acres of the county's best farmland in Dover, Raleigh and Tilbury East Townships.
Some felt that the multi-million-dollar job should be undertaken under the Drainage Act; but the Conservation Authority qualified for more generous financial support under ARDA (Agricultural Rehabilitation and Development Act.) Government funds dried up to a trickle before the job could be completed, but the LTVCA got $12 million in funds, and most of the work completed, before that happened.
One person associated with that endeavour said, "Mike Wilson's determination, tenacity and gift of persuasion" were a major factor in obtaining the government money.
Mr. Wilson was born in Harwich Township in 1926, the son of Arthur and Winnifred Wilson. He attended S.S. No.2, Harwich Township, then Chatham Collegiate Institute before joining his father on the family farm. It was a big operation, with a large dairy herd at that time. In 1948, he married the former Elinor Adams.
Mr. Wilson was interested in municipal politics and in farm organizations from early in his career. He served on Harwich Township Council from 1958 to 1966, as a member of Council, Deputy Reeve and Reeve. He was on Kent County Council from 1960 to 1961 and from 1964 to 1966. He was also involved in the campaign to build a Junior College in Chatham.
Mr. Wilson's concurrent leadership of many farm organizations is a testimonial to his energy and dedication. He was a member of the Kent County Soil and Crop Improvement Association, its Vice-President from 1963 to 1965 and President in 1966 and 1967. He was a member of the Kent Federation of Agriculture and President in 1962.
Mr. Wilson was also a member of the Ontario Seed Corn Growers' Marketing Board and Chairman from 1969 to 1977. He took an active part in Ontario Soya Bean Growers.
Mr. Wilson served on the Board of Directors of DeKalb Canada for 10 years; and as a member of the Eastern Grain Standards Commission.
He became a member of the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority in 1964 and its Chairman in 1967. The Authority, then, was deeply involved in a variety of initiatives to try to control recurring floods along the Thames River and McGregor's Creek.
The McGregor's Creek problem involved both rural and urban municipalities, with completely different outlooks and ideas. The ambitious ARDA diking program required the cooperation of Essex and St. Clair Conservation Authorities. One municipal official recalled: "Mike wanted to be fair to everyone, and it was seldom easy!"
Mr. Wilson also worked diligently on the Thames River Basin Study and the Thames River Implementation Committee, which looked at all factors affecting the River Thames Basin, from economics to water quality. He was a major player in the LTVCA Land Acquisition Committee and in the expansion of the Authority boundaries to take in an additional 400 square miles. He was, in the words of those who worked with him, "an active and dynamic" Chairman.
Over the years, he developed a sense of the importance of Conservation Authorities in protecting Ontario's natural heritage. His ability to talk to people, at all levels of authority, enabled him to gain support for a host of projects. The LTVCA, during his Chairmanship, was able "to develop a cohesiveness within the membership" that created a more effective operation. The popular C.M. Wilson Conservation Area was named to honour him.
Mr. Wilson has also been involved in other organizations with spin-off benefits to the farming community.
He served for 20 years as a member of the Chatham Public General Hospital Board, and was named an Honorary Member. He was a member of the Chatham Suburban Roads Commission from 1967 to 1986.
Mr. Wilson was active in the Kent County Tourist Association, and its President in 1965. He was a member of the Chatham Optimist Club and President in 1963 and 1964. With Jim Cook, he took a leading role in the restoration of the Lighthouse at the mouth of the Thames River, as a historic landmark and a guide to navigation.
The Wilsons have five children: Nancy (Miss Dominion of Canada, 1968), Wendy, Paul, Neil and Susan, and 13 grandchildren.