Skip to main content

Pioneering former St. Paul City Council president Bill Wilson dies at 79

Bill Wilson was the first African American elected to the city council.

Politicians and activists in St. Paul are mourning former city council president Bill Wilson, who has died at the age of 79.

Wilson died Saturday after battling illness, the St. Paul DFL confirmed on Sunday.

Leading the tributes was St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, who said: "Former City Council President Bill Wilson literally spent his entire life in service to others.

"I’ve leaned on him for years as both a mentor and confidante, and his public service paved the way for me in more ways than one. He will be greatly missed."

Wilson was a pioneering force in St. Paul politics and activism, becoming the first African American to be elected to the city council, serving in the '80s and '90s, and a former Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights under former Gov. Wendell Anderson.

He has spent his adult life fighting for change and racial equity, with TC Daily Planet noting he co-founded Students for Racial Progress at the University of Minnesota.

He was also the founder of the Inner City Youth League in St. Paul, as well as the founder of the acclaimed K-12 charter school the Higher Ground Academy, which he launched in 1999 with the aim of providing educational opportunities for African American youths.

Sign up: Subscribe to our BREAKING NEWS newsletters

"Bill was a staunch advocate for human and civil rights and a pioneer as the first African American elected to St. Paul’s City Council," said the St. Paul DFL.

"Throughout his life and career, Bill continued to be an influential voice for our community. Never wavering from his commitment to ensure St. Paul was a place that lived up to its promise of being a city where everyone could thrive.

"His voice, energy and passion for community service will be missed. Arrangements are being made and will be shared soon."

Next Up

Screen Shot 2023-01-27 at 7.45.44 PM

Protest for Tyre Nichols to be held outside MN Governor’s Mansion

Activists groups say they’ll call on Gov. Tim Walz and the Legislature to implement police reforms.

Pool

Minnesota pool contractor banned from industry, must pay $2 million-plus

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed suit against Charles Workman and his company, MN Crete Pools, LLC, in August.

Minneapolis police

St. Paul man identified as victim of north Minneapolis homicide

The shooting occurred on the 2200 block of Emerson Avenue North on Wednesday.

ambulance

Two youths seriously injured after being struck by driver in Bloomington

Police say the boy is in a critical condition, while the girl has severe injuries.

Rosedale Center

Two men sentenced for carjacking in Rosedale Center parking lot

Leon Kismit Bell, 49, and Jack Mitchell Piche, 23, were sentenced in U.S. District Court on Jan. 20.

Screen Shot 2023-01-27 at 3.59.30 PM

Police identify White Bear Lake officer shot while serving warrant

The officer is a six-year veteran of the department.

abortion, planned parenthood

Minnesota Senate passes bill codifying abortion into state law

Having already passed in the House, it will now be sent to Gov. Tim Walz for signing into law.

Screen Shot 2023-01-27 at 7.45.44 PM

Tyre Nichols: Initial police version of events bear similarities to George Floyd killing

Memphis PD said Nichols complained of 'shortness of breath' following 'confrontations' with police, who in reality violently beat him.

George Floyd, protest

Twin Cities authorities preparing for community reaction to Tyre Nichols video

The ATF division in St. Paul sent out an alert out of "an abundance of caution."

Related

Kassim Busuri

St. Paul council member facing accusations of homophobia

Old Facebook posts made by Kassim Busuri have surfaced.

St. Paul city council candidate arrested again

David Martinez has been making headlines over the past month.

Dr. Suzanne Rivera

Macalester College board approves appointment of its 17th president

Dr. Suzanne Rivera is the first female president in the college's 145-year history.

St. Paul candidate swore at library staff, says he was defending teen

He's been banned from the city's library system for a month.

Screen Shot 2020-03-10 at 6.28.59 PM

St. Paul schools to be closed again on Wednesday

The teacher strike will continue into a second day.

St. Paul: School buses will deliver week's supply of food to kids

Minneapolis is also offering free food to the city's students.

Council member who made history will now run for mayor in St. Paul

Dai Thao became the first Hmong-American council member in St. Paul history.