David Wilson, son of a slave, was the seventh of eleven children, born in South Carolina. He completed eighth grade and came to New York in 1935. Dovetta, the daughter of a Baptist minister and the tenth of fourteen children, came to New York in 1940. David and Dovetta met and married in New York and reared their family of nine —five boys, four girls–in the Lincoln Houses, a public housing project, in Harlem, New York City.
Though denied a formal education in the segregated south, both David and Dovetta taught their children that education is the key to attaining goals in life. The children were also taught the importance of making a contribution to the community. David Wilson was always telling his children that those best able to give something back to Harlem had moved on. “He named off certain families that had left, including us,” recalled Carolyn C. Blair, the youngest Wilson. “He said, ‘Don’t be like that. This is where you grew up, got your roots, your training. Give something back.
The nine children decided to pool their limited resources and create a family scholarship fund as a living tribute to their mother and in memory of their father. Their desire was to help a new generation of young people make it into college. Each year since its inception in 1990, nine students have been presented awards by the Fund. In the early years, the awards were small but appreciated nonetheless as the Fund was supported purely from the donations of the nine Wilson children and other close family members. With the death of Mother Dovetta Wilson in 1995, the endowment increased through her bequest. Students are selected for their community service, academic excellence and financial need without regard to race, creed or gender. The recipients all attend accredited colleges. DDWSF takes pride in the caliber of student it attracts. 1994 was the first graduating class of recipients. Some of the colleges attended are American University, Boston University, Clemson, University of Delaware, Howard University, Harvard, George Washington University, Rice University, and St. Johns University.
The Wilsons were named the 1991 “Family of the Year” by USA Today for establishing DDWSF. Newsday proclaimed them, “The Nine Bright Lights From Harlem.” They were featured on New York City’s radio show, “Rambling With Gambling. “ They also appear in Jim Dwyer’s critically acclaimed book, Subway Lives, and in issues of Essence (1993) and Ebony (1995) magazines. In 1992, the family was featured in an AT&T special on NBC entitled “Images and Reality: The African American Family “ The May 1993 issue of Reader’s Digest presented the Wilsons in their “Heroes For Today” section. In addition, DDWSF has received national recognition from the President of the United States, the Governor of New York, and the Mayor of New York City. DDWSF continues to work toward improving our communities, honoring those who lead in that effort as well as investing in tomorrow’s leaders.