History of Smylie C. Wilson
Smylie Chenoweth Wilson, who was known as Mr. Music when he came to Lubbock in 1902, might have known everyone in town by a first name. Lubbock had a population estimated at only about 300. He was a trombone player, and organized a town band for concerts, dances and community events. But that isn’t why he came to Lubbock. He had been sent by the St. Louis-based firm of Stringfellow & Hume to gradually close out a small hardware business that wasn’t profitable.
Wilson was a failure at failure, though, and the business prospered instead. It became so valuable that businessmen from Colorado City bought it and named it Western Windmill Co., with Wilson as its manager. For a while, nearly every home in Lubbock had a windmill for the family’s water supply, and that made a good market for Western Windmill. Wilson advanced to vice president of the company, and kept the name of Western Windmill even in later years after windmills were vanishing from Lubbock. He could see possibilities in Lubbock, and especially in its education system. One of his daughters, Frances Wilson, said her father’s timing was definitely propitious. “He and the town both got here at the right time to grow — and they did.” Wilson had been 18 at the time, and he was interested in being a builder of Lubbock. “Anything that would build the community, he was interested in,” Frances said.
He married Willie May Thomas of Dallas on Oct. 14, 1914. Lubbock ISD history notes that “The new bride soon found her place in the thriving town, and she both supported Mr. Wilson’s many activities, as well as made her own place in the town.” The Wilson’s children were Frances and Mary. Wilson served on the Board of Trustees of Lubbock Independent School District from 1921 to 1934, and during a part of that service was vice president of the board. According to history notes from Lubbock ISD, he also served as the district’s purchasing agent until a staff member was hired for the position in 1925.
During the early days of Lubbock, he was assistant chief of the volunteer fire department, served on the fair board, and was involved in the Masonic Lodge. He became interested in the new Texas Technological College, also. Frances said, “He was here at the start, and worked to build up the funds.” According to David Hester, Wilson was clerk for what became the downtown First Presbyterian Church, for half a century. “He kept the minutes of the church for 50 years. I knew him when I was a teenager in church. He recorded everything as the clerk,” Hester said. Wilson had helped organize the church with 12 other founding members in 1903. Frances said her father was interested in Scripture. “He enjoyed the Bible.”
Wilson liked to read generally, also, and that became his primary means of education as a young man. He had been the alternate for an appointment to West Point, but when the first nominee took the appointment, his chance for formal education went away. His interest in education was expressed primarily through membership on the board, at a time when the board took an active role in operating the schools because the professional staff was limited. Wilson became a member of the Teachers’ Committee, and interviewed applicants for positions in the district.
He also served on the Building Committee, and was on the board when a high school building was constructed at 14th street and Avenue T. Later, that structure was converted to a middle school and named Carroll Thompson Junior High. Wilson was on the Building Committee when Lubbock High School was built at 19th Street and Avenue T. K. Carter, Dupre and Sanders Elementary Schools also were put in place while he was associated with Lubbock ISD. Frances apparently inherited his interest in school, and graduated from Lubbock High in 1936. “I finished Lubbock High school, went out 19th Street to Tech and finished Tech.”
She said, “I graduated with a teaching certificate in English and history, but I never did teach. English and history teachers were a dime a dozen at that time.” What she really preferred was secretarial work, so she became a secretary and was secretary to four consecutive superintendents of Lubbock ISD. “I loved that. That was the best, most interesting job I think I could ever have had.” She worked in that position until she retired.
When Lubbock ISD began building a junior high school structure at 4402 31st St. in 1958, Smylie Wilson was being considered as the namesake. “I was secretary to the superintendant at that time, and I felt like sitting over there pulling strings. Of course I couldn’t because I was an employee. But I did want the school named for Daddy.” When they decided on a name, Smylie Wilson was chosen. “He was very proud of it — it is quite a distinction to have a school named for you,” Frances said. His first name, Smylie, is a Scottish name, and the maiden name of his mother, according to Frances.
Wilson passed away in 1968. He had a reputation for being an exceptionally quiet man. Lubbock ISD history information adds, “Nevertheless, he was a doer and the things he did were beneficial to his neighbors.” Frances remembers him this way: “He was a very gentle-spoken man. If anybody was having problems, Daddy could help them work things out. “He was a peace maker.”