December 12, 2018

James “Chief” Wilson was hired at all-black Jones High School in 1950 to teach history, but he was a talented musician and longed to share that love with his students. He was the band director at Jones for forty years and made a lasting impact on music in Central Florida—and across the country. He passed away December 5.

Wilson is to be featured in an upcoming documentary, written and produced by UCF professors and students. The film will tell the story of the trip to the New York World’s Fair, when Orlando’s leaders — in an unusual move in the South in the early 1960s — spearheaded fundraisers to send both Jones’ all-black band and the all-white Edgewater High School band to that national showcase.

Lisa Mills, a UCF film professor and a co-director of the documentary, said the film highlights an interesting moment in Orlando’s history, the long friendship between Wilson and Edgewater’s white band leader but also the importance of black educators like Wilson who worked “to build a bridge to equality” during segregation.

“Behind the scenes of the Civil Rights movement, teachers like Chief were making a huge difference in the lives of their students,” she said. Mills co-directed the film with Dr. Robert Cassanello from the Department of History, created in an honors film course.

Read the full story on the Orlando SentinelJames ‘Chief’ Wilson brought music, prestige to Jones High