Robert "Bob" Thomas Wilson
February 9, 1928 – July 10, 2020
Robert Thomas Wilson passed away on Friday, July 10, 2020 at age 92 in Charlotte, North Carolina… Bob was born on February 9, 1928 at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte.
Bob was a great storyteller… one of his favorites was telling the story of his first job... he was a bag boy at his Sunday School teacher Bill Harris’ grocery store which later grew to become Harris Teeter.
At the age of 16, Bob joined the Navy, sailing on the USS Meigs during World War II. During his 3-year enlistment, he traveled the world and had the honor of marching in the funeral procession for President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945.
After leaving the service in 1947, Bob moved to Miami, Florida and became a Professional Boxing Manager and Trainer where he teamed up with Angelo Dundee who would later go on to manage and train Muhammed Ali.
Bob met the love of his life, Nancy Jo Helms and they were married on September 4, 1955. The two were married for 63 years until Nancy’s passing in November of 2018.
It was in 1970 that Bob made a career change… he moved into the apparel business and one of his early success stories was working for Arnold Palmer… helping the Pro Golfer launch his first golf shoe line.
The majority of Bob’s professional career centered around the apparel business where he eventually rose to become President of the Men’s Apparel Club of the Carolinas and was one of the club’s most successful leaders. Bob and his son Bob, Jr. also traveled extensively in Asia and contracted and purchased apparel and other items.
“Bob wore many hats while being involved with the Men’s Apparel Club. He became a member of the MAC Board of Directors in 1973 and became President of the MAC in 1978. In 1979 he was named Chairman and served as an advisor until 1981. Bob also established the MAC’s Political Action Committee. I will miss Bob greatly as will his friends in the apparel industry”. (Larry Holland - Exec. Dir., Men’s Apparel Club)
In 1973 Bob became the owner of Mart Foods, the food service arm of the Charlotte Merchandise Mart. The highlight of his 25 years as head of Mart Foods came in 1990 when Mart Foods catered a formal dinner for President George Bush. Bob’s wife Nancy and daughter Brenda were very instrumental in the success of Mart Foods over that 25-year span.
That brush with politics prompted Bob to make a run for an At-Large seat on the Charlotte City Council. Bob was very active in State and Local politics, dedicating many hours to host important fundraisers which were always family affairs. Bob developed relationships with Governor Jim Martin, Governor Jim Hunt, Governor/Mayor Pat McCrory, Mayors Richard Vinroot, Eddie Knox, John Belk and lifelong friend Jim Whittington and others. Harvey Gantt was by far his favorite and closest confidante.
“Bob Wilson was a man I did not know prior to my election to public office in Charlotte in the 1970’s. But over the years he became a terrific friend and loyal supporter. We became mutual admirers for the values we held high, such as family, love of community, hard work, and giving your best in service to others. In all our years of knowing each other, he supported me generously but never asked for anything for himself in return. Currently, with so much attention being given to racism, Bob never saw race as an issue. For him, Black lives did matter, and he made that known to his children when it was not popular to hold such beliefs in his community. He will always be remembered by me as one of the finest examples of what a true citizen, friend and supporter is all about.” (Harvey B. Gantt - Former Mayor of Charlotte)
Boxing reentered Bob’s life again in the 80’s when he, along with H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler became two of the founding members of the North Carolina Boxing Hall of Fame located at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“Well, he was a wonderful man and contributed a great deal and without him the North Carolina Boxing Hall of Fame would not be what it is today. We will certainly miss him, and we will keep the square ring open for him at a later date.” (H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler)
Bob’s son Robert, Jr., a Senior Consultant for Compass Group, NA, convinced his Dad to come out of retirement in 2001 to work on a special project for Compass and ended up staying on as a consultant for 17 years, concentrating on Uniforms & Apparel. He retired in 2018 at age 89 !!
“I first had the pleasure of meeting Bob Wilson in 2001. Little did I know that it was the start of a 17-year relationship with a man who I can only describe as a perfect gentleman. It soon became obvious that Mr. Wilson, as he was affectionally known, brought tremendous knowledge, business acumen, and humility to whatever he touched for us. His knowledge was imparted wisely and with care, as he took great pride in getting every detail correct and also educating his work colleagues who were often much younger than him so they developed their own knowledge as a result. Over time I got to know Bob personally. He would pop in to catch up which would expand into my asking about his earlier career. I was fascinated by the range of experiences and the people he had met along the way. Again, he was very humble, and I had to pry out of him what was an amazing life before we met. I’ve met many people in my career, but I can honestly say Bob was a very special man. To be so caring, kind, and considerate while still making such a valuable contribution is a huge testament to him. I don’t think I will ever meet another Mr. Wilson, and the world is a poorer place without him.” (Tony Shearer - CEO, Compass/Foodbuy)
Heath Gilbert has been the Attorney for the Wilson Family since 2013 and handles all the family’s business affairs. But in that time, he has become more than a business acquaintance and more like a treasured family friend.
“I came to know Mr. Wilson as the family attorney. He was a dear and gracious man who went out of his way to make one feel as though they were part of his family. He believed in the simple grace of uncommon courtesy, a lost art in today’s world. What a tremendous privilege it was to have known him over the last years of his life." (Heath Gilbert / Baucom Claytor / 2020-2021 President, Mecklenburg County Bar)
Bob LOVED life… he loved his family and was very proud of his children. More than anything, Bob was an extraordinary Father and devoted Husband and cherished the relationships with his family more than anything else. He loved sports and enjoyed playing golf and was an avid poker player and worshipped the sun ! He loved to travel… and enjoyed fun times at the family beach condo in North Myrtle Beach, SC.
Bob is preceded in death by his beloved wife Nancy, Brother William “Bill” and Sister Joan Kester. Bob is survived by his son Robert T. Wilson Jr., (Samantha Lyn Hutt) daughter Brenda Wilson Oswald ( Husband, Mark ), son Jack Wilson ( Wife, Renee ) and grandchildren Jason Wilson ( Mark Epperley, Husband ), Piper Rowe ( Nick Rowe, Husband) and Kaley Wilson.
A celebration of Bob's life will be held on Saturday, August 1st at McEwen Funeral Home in Charlotte at 4:00pm. Due to COVID-19, social distancing will be observed, and masks will be provided and required. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Bob’s name to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
Condolences may be offered at www.mcewenpinevillechapel.com. The service can be viewed via livestream at https://www.facebook.com/McEwen-Funeral-Service-Pineville-Chapel-108159195920658.
Celebration of Life
Saturday, August 1, 2020
Robert "Bob" Thomas Wilson
July 31, 2020
I was so incredibly fortunate to have know Bob Wilson my entire life. I considered him a great mentor and, most importantly, a friend. He absolutely could, and would, strike up a conversation with anyone while sharing insight and a great perspective on life.
I learned the art of storytelling, first impressions, generosity, dressing to the nines, and the importance of information. Bob was a library of knowledge on the history of Charlotte and was in the room during the major growth moments of our City.
I want to thank his family for sharing him with us. It was truly an honor to have know him. I know my Dad (Boyd Cauble), Bob & Nancy and many others are celebrating together as we speak.
July 31, 2020
To all the cousins..... I wish you peace and comfort at this time. Reading Bob’s obituary was enlightening.... so much of his life accomplishments were revealed in this obit. The photos are precious. All of these things share your love for him and his love for you.
July 29, 2020
I will never forget the great three months that I got to spend with Mr. Bob as his caregiver. Ever since I met him, I knew he was a man so full of life, love and happiness. He made every day at work exciting and different, the only thing guaranteed was his coke and some snacks. He loved his children more than anything, and I am blessed to also have become parts of their lives as well. I will forever miss Mr. Bob and treasure the times that I have spent with him, and thank him for introducing me to his amazing daughter who will carry on his legacy as an amazing and loving person that I am so lucky to know!
July 27, 2020
I only got to know Bob a bit this past year. My first impression was, "What a remarkable guy!" He was always so full of energy and life! Always with a ready smile and eager to engage. Putting his own challenges aside, he always inquired about how others were doing. I only wish I had gotten to know him earlier. Here's to a life well lived! I will miss him.
Mary Helen Creech
July 27, 2020
I send deepest sympathy to the family.
Mr. Wilson had a way of making any day brighter, and he was a true gentleman.
I have many fond memories of having the pleasure of knowing him.
Mary Helen Creech
Dave & Fran Cook
July 27, 2020
Our condolence to the Wilson family. When we first started in the food business, Bob Wilson hired us to work with him at the Merchandise Mart. No black companies were working such high profile locations. He gave us a chance and he and Bobby became life long friends. As a black person, I will never forget his belief and trust in us....even when it wasn’t cool to put black caterers out front then. Thank You Sir. Rest In Heaven Our Friend.
Dave & Fran Cook
Chuck & Kattie Robinson
July 24, 2020
Cherish those memories and how fortunate you all were to have been blessed with such a strong role model in your lives for so many years.
Your dad had a full and interesting life; set the bar high and delivered.
We should all be so blessed and fortunate.
In our thoughts and prayers during these tough times.
The Robinson Family
Chuck & Kattie
July 22, 2020
I send heartfelt prayers to the family. It was a pleasure to have him as President of our MAC Club in Charlotte and follow in his footsteps to serve all of the required chairs to become President in 1997 and 2016. He will be truly missed. Such a fine Gentleman.
Nancy & Ed Tessener
July 20, 2020
Dear Wilson Family,
We send our deepest sympathy and condolences to the entire family.
We are very sorry to hear of your loss. As neighbors we were honored and blessed to have known Bob and Nancy. It was always enjoying to meet and talk with them.
Our dog Max loved Bob and would run into his yard any time he saw him (usually washing his car-which he kept spotless).
As an ex-golfer and big fans, enjoyed listening to Bob talk about his association with Arnold Palmer.
You are in our Hearts and Prayers.
Nancy and Ed Tessener