Mike Wilson: A story about namesakes

Published 12:00 pm Friday, March 24, 2023

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Mike WilsonI was once told that I was named Michael after my mother’s favorite great uncle Mike Omar, who served as Marshal of Lambert, Mississippi for many years.

There is an interesting case file from a 1927 (thus, Prohibition era) lawsuit pertaining to a search he conducted “without probable cause” that turned up four gallons of whiskey after he was awakened in the middle of the night by an unmuffled vehicle in his neighborhood. Another Google “hit” includes discussion of his tendency to shoot first and ask questions later. Today there is Mike Omar Drive in that town.

My troubles began in the tenth grade. My name is fairly common, so it is not surprising that there would be two of us in a class of some 600 students. Homeroom assignments and seating were alphabetical, so I (Joseph M.) sat right in front of Michael D. in the back corner of the classroom for three years, and you can imagine my horror when — at least twice a year — uniformed officers would appear at the classroom door asking to see Mike Wilson. Honestly, I never really got to know him. He perished not long after graduation at a railroad crossing.

The next namesake arrived at Hampden-Sydney College during the wonderful Tony Shaver era in the 80’s to play basketball. For a college player, he wasn’t especially tall, but he had the most outstanding leaping ability I have ever witnessed in person. If anyone could truly “take a quarter off the top of the backboard and leave 15 cents change,” it was Mike. Since I had him in Elementary Spanish, we had some fun with the coincidence.

Not long after I arrived at Catawba as Provost in 1993, a new, misguided, and — I can safely say it now — somewhat dense athletic director decided to raise funds by renting out our gym for a local entrepreneur’s “tough man contest” (a precursor of MMA, I believe), in which the last brawler standing wins. A colleague was kind enough to save me the clipping from the Salisbury Post that Sunday declaring my victory; several indicated that they were previously unaware of my tattoos. And there I was, trying so hard to seem kind and compassionate.

Incidentally, after that fiasco, the AD decided to raise funds by committing our football team to a “money game” against Western Carolina early the next fall that left half the roster seeking medical redshirts.

Google searches of “Mike Wilson” turn up an interesting array of Wall Street financial advisors, dentists, professors, newspaper editors, CEO’s, mayors, a Kentucky legislator, a Clemson baseball equipment manager, etc. A more refined search, “Mike Wilson criminal” reveals horrifying results: one killed his grandmother, another is a violent drug dealer, and several are registered sex offenders, not to mention the one — sporting the interesting alias “Lucky” — arrested for “possession of a forged instrument.” I assume it was a 6-iron.

Mike Wilson is a former Hampden-Sydney Spanish professor and 13-year resident of Prince Edward County, who now calls North Carolina home. He can be reached at jmwilson@catawba.edu.