Welcome Wilson Sr. Speaks of the origin of his named his family name.
Also, discusses his University of Houston Board of Regents position.
Mr. Wilson: I don’t have an answer for that question, Eisenhower as President and Sam Ramer whom I knew was the Speaker of the House and Lyndon Johnson was the majority leader of the Senate and they got along very well and they all worked together and so forth, no one got what they wanted. And even with Reagan we had a functioning government so I don’t know what that answer is, that’s above my pay grade, yes sir?
Question: What’s the origin of your name and what was your father’s name.
Mr. Wilson: My father’s name was Ewol Wilson, E-W-O-L it was his mother’s maiden name spelled backwards, Lowe so along the way no one ever being able to remember Ewol Wilson, he nick named himself Jack, so when my older brother was born he was named Jack Wilson. So the doctor told my parents over 84 years ago that I would be a girl, and they did that a lot during the depression it turns out, during the early days. So I surprised them by being a 12 lb. boy. The doctor closed his bag and left the house, I wasn’t born in a hospital, no one was born in a hospital in those days, so there is no hospital to make you name the baby, well they had a girl’s name picked out, lost in memory, so the first 3, 4 days they discussed what to name the boy, at the end of the week they are now arguing what to name the boy (laughs) 2 weeks went by, 3 weeks went by, 22 days after I was born my father came home from work and said, why don’t we name him welcome so he will know he is welcome though he is not a girl (laughs and applaud). I have no complaints, by the way there is Welcome Jr. and if Welcome Jr. sounds like he’s young, he’s 61 years old and there is Welcome the third, by the way Welcome Jr. is my harshest critic, it’s awful the other day I made a comment about being over the hiss and he said, Sr. explain to me when you were on top of the hill (laughs).
And then I came in one day and I said, Welcome have you heard my last speech, he said I certainly hope so (laughs), but the worst came at the, by the way the Governor replaced my on the Board of Regents with him and he now is the oldest member of the Board of Regents just like I was the oldest member, but anyway at the first meeting, Roger Welder from Victoria Region, the subject of me came up somehow, he said exactly how old is Welcome Sr. and Welcome Jr. said, well let me put it this way, he said when Welcome Sr. was a teenager the dead sea was only sick (laughs).
Question: Can you answer these questions in this order, what did you do to screw up when Kennedy was in Houston, second question how did a 20 odd year old get to know all the most influential people in Houston, and number 3 what’s a peckerwood? (laughs)
Mr. Wilson: Thank you David, well the first one when the President arrived in Air Force I at the airport, the night before he was assassinated I had told Johnny Goyen to go get Ralph Yarborough off of Air Force I and take him over and put him in the limousine with LBJ who had arrived earlier on Air Force II, so Johnny dutifully got Yarborough walked him over there, he opened the door for him and Yarborough got in and stepped in and he looked in and he saw LBJ and he said, I’m not gonna get in there with that SOB and he stormed off, next day LBJ that SOB was the President of the United States, and Yarborough never recovered. What was the second one I forgot already.
Question: How did somebody in their 20’s get to know the most influential people in Houston?
Mr. Wilson: Politics, when I was in my 20’s I volunteered to raise money for elected officials, Judge Roy Hoffhines was Mayor of Houston, so I perceived that the finance committee was a hell of lot better to me than putting up signs in people’s yards, so I was on the finance committee, so they would say, in the finance committee they would say who will contact George Brown and I’d say, I’ll call George. Well you called George’s office and you say the Mayor asked me to call and guess what, he takes the call and you say I need to come by and see you about the campaign, come on. So in a very short period of time I got to know Gus Wortham later on he made money which I needed, Jimmy Hawkins, all of the top leaders of Houston, Stewart Morris only because of being involved in financial part of fund raising, for campaigns. What was the last question?
Question: What is a peckerwood?
Mr. Wilson: In the 1850’s in Fort Bent County and by the way, remember in Texas or any place everything was local, there was very little information outside of our neighborhood, but in Fort Bent County there were two political parties, one was the do nothings and the other one was the peckerwoods and one of them was in favour of succeeding, of Texas succeeding from the union and the other was against it and now I don’t even remember which one it was although I was there at the time (laughs). But the peckerwoods was a political party in Fort Bent County. Any other questions, yes sir, last question.
Question: What are your top 5 things or top couple of things you look at when doing a development deal as a green light or red light.
Mr. Wilson: First of all it used to be that real estate developers would build anything that he could finance right Stewart, if you could finance it, you build it you didn’t care, the perfect example is the Heritage Plaza downtown, Rusty Worthen had it financed and we are going into the, oil was selling for $10 a barrel and he starts building a 40 storey office building Harold Farb’s apartment project, I told them both, I said guys the world is coming to an end and you are starting a huge project and then both of them said, no we figured it out, we got the market and by the time we open blah, blah and whatever of course they both lost their building but finance is the most important thing and if thank heavens in Houston, Texas we are lot more cleaver than that, but it’s very sophisticated these days, for example we dropped a contract on a building in Dallas last week $12 million dollars why, because we were applying Houston standards and we didn’t realize that that guy was, the tenant was paying $2.70 per sq. ft. above the market, so now his ten-year lease leaves, he’s gonna say lower my rent or I am leaving. So it’s a lot more complicated now and information is what everybody needs, can I?
You told me to stand up (laughs). If you gotta go its okay but he’s here for the duration and so let’s just keep on going.
Mr. Wilson: I wanna conclude with a story I was at the River Oaks Country Club about 2 weeks ago and I ran into my old friend Dr. Red Duke, who knows Red Duke great guy whatever and he said, Welcome you know you are getting old when you tell your best friend that you are having an affair and he wants to know who is catering it. (laugh and applaud).
Interviewer: Welcome thank you so much, I think we heard something special today, I don’t know about you all but having Welcome here and Stewart and John Walsh, I mean who have got hundreds of years of experience in developing Houston itself, I’m amazed I got chills a couple of times from some of the stories he said, so anyway again we are glad you are all here, we are always looking for new members, we would love to have some shooters, come see us next time, if you are not on our email list, drop us a card, give me a card and love to see you again, let’s give Welcome one more hand.