There are many memories to share about Bishop Arthur Wilson Sr., but the one that quickly comes to mind for goddaughter Cecily Robinson-Duffie made an indelible impression in her life.
She remembers a good man who lent his ear while driving a little girl to Paul Laurence Dunbar K-8 Center in Overtown.
“From my earliest days, he was my backup driver when I’d miss my school bus — which was often. He took the time to listen,” Robinson-Duffie said. “He was a middle-aged man and he would talk to me at my level and encourage me with words I could understand at that age. I was certain he had to be praying for me even during that time.”
Wilson, who died Monday at 86, prayed often, for many. He served as a pastor for more than 50 years at the Church of God of Prophecy at four of its South Florida churches over that half century.
Wilson helped guide his goddaughter onto a path that would later include becoming an attorney, wife and mother.
Born in Overtown and a graduate of Booker T. Washington Senior High in Miami, Wilson became a licensed minister in 1954 at the General Assembly in Cleveland, Tenn. Soon after, he was appointed pastor of the Church of God of Prophecy in Key West.
That first job was quite the commute from his Miami home. Wilson would board a bus at 5 a.m. Sundays for the long ride. He wouldn’t return home from his church duties until 6 a.m. Mondays, “with just enough time to get ready for his day job with the city of Miami,” his son Arthur Jr. said in a 2007 profile of his father in the Miami Herald upon Wilson’s retirement from the Church of God at Hallandale Beach.
Wilson, an Air Force veteran, worked with Miami’s Department of Solid Waste for more than 30 years while pastoring congregations, growing small ones into larger ones.
“He was a pastor who actually lived the gospel,” Robinson-Duffie said. “He was very humble, mild-mannered but very generous. He loved to mentor young people on a one-on-one basis. He would tell me tips about how to rear my five children with my husband.”
Son Arthur Jr., 62, followed his father and became pastor of the Sure Foundation Church of God of Prophecy in West Park.
“His greatest quality was his faithfulness in any undertaking he proceeded to do,” his son said. “He instilled many things. He told us that love is the mechanism that helps this world survive. He taught us to be respectful and to honor authority and honor God and that we, above all, must love and care for our families.”
Wilson is survived by his wife of 63 years, Maebell, and their three children, Arthur Jr., Barry and James Wilson and three grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at the Church of God of Prophecy, 601 NW Second Ave., Hallandale Beach. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Church of God of Prophecy, 4528 NW First Ave., Miami.