Frankfort, KY: Governor Ernie Fletcher today noted the passing of George W. Wilson, who was corrections secretary under two governors and was the first African-American to serve as a cabinet officer in Kentucky.
“George Wilson was a pioneer in Kentucky state government and built an admirable record of public service and personal accomplishment during his long career,” Governor Fletcher stated.
Wilson, who died today, was appointed commissioner of the Department of Corrections by Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. in 1980. The agency was elevated to cabinet status in July 1981, with Wilson as its secretary.
Wilson remained in the post of corrections secretary under Brown’s successor, Gov. Martha Layne Collins. He later was appointed director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. He returned to Kentucky in the early 1990s to become warden of the minimum-security Blackburn Correctional Complex near Lexington.
“The Commonwealth has lost a great leader today with the passing of George Wilson,” said Lieutenant Governor Steve Pence, secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. “Mr. Wilson’s distinguished career has set the standard for minority empowerment in state government. I offer my sincere condolences to Mr. Wilson’s family.”
"George Wilson was a friend, a boss and a fellow Corrections professional. His contributions to Kentucky corrections - both at the adult and juvenile level - are significant," said Corrections Commissioner John D. Rees, who served under Wilson as warden of the Kentucky State Reformatory.
Rees cited Wilson’s leadership when Kentucky was under federal orders to reduce prison crowding. Rees said Wilson set the system on a path to attain national accreditation. "The leadership he demonstrated in dealing with the federal consent decree, and bringing about a solution to those difficult times, was the foundation from which we operate today,” Rees said.
Wilson’s public service career included a term as chairman of the Board of Regents of Kentucky State University, his alma mater.
Governor Fletcher ordered flags lowered to half staff at all state correctional facilities, as well as the flag flying over the state Capitol, in honor of Mr. Wilson. Flags will remain at half staff until Wilson’s burial.