The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 5, 2013

Charles B. Wilson


The Joplin Globe

MIAMI, Okla. — Internationally famed artist Charles Banks Wilson, a longtime resident, of Miami, Okla., died Thursday, May 2, at Rogers, Ark.

Born Aug. 6, 1918, in Springdale, Ark., to Charles Bertram Wilson and Bertha Juanita Banks, he lived most of his life in Miami. In recent years he had lived in Fayetteville, Ark.

He was well-known for his paintings, murals, drawings, prints and illustrations of Native American life. Through artwork, he chronicled the culture and lifestyles of the northeastern Oklahoma Indian tribes, with whom he grew up. Wilson preserved for posterity scenes from area pow-wows and ceremonials. One of his most ambitious projects was the collection of drawings he made of pureblood Native Americans throughout the United States for his "Search for the Purebloods" book. His best-known lithographic print series, "Ten Little Indians" also was featured on ceramic mugs produced by Miami's Winart Pottery. Additionally, Wilson was the author of a popular photographic history of the local tribes, "Indian Tribes of Eastern Oklahoma."

A 1936, graduate of Miami High School, Wilson enrolled in the Chicago Art Institute in 1937, to study painting, watercolor and lithographs. While there he contributed to a folio of prints for the American Art Association. Returning home to Miami, Wilson became the founder of the Art Department at Northeastern A&M, where he chaired that department and taught for 15 years. In his honor, the NEO Foundation has established the Charles Banks Wilson Art Gallery at NEO, which includes a student gallery, classrooms, studio space, computer graphic design studio and faculty offices. NEO also has a Charles Banks Wilson art scholarship program for art students. Throughout his long life, Wilson has produced outstanding lithographic prints, paintings, and book and magazine illustrations. His artwork is among collections of the Metropolitan Museum of New York; the Library of Congress, Corcoran Gallery and Smithsonian Institution at Washington, D.C., and at the Oklahoma State Capitol. His portrait of Will Rogers done from life is in the National Portrait Gallery. Gilcrease Museum at Tulsa has the largest collection of Wilson's artworks.

In addition to his several portraits of Will Rogers, some of Wilson's other most famous paintings include the four murals of Oklahoma history which are under the Oklahoma Capitol dome; the life-size portraits of Rogers, Sequoyah, U.S. Sen. Robert Kerr and athlete Jim Thorpe, which are also featured at the Oklahoma Capitol, and his portrait of US House Speaker Carl Albert, in the US Capitol Speaker's Gallery. A member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, Wilson was the first recipient of the Governor's Art Award and Distinguished Service Citation from the University of Oklahoma. He also received the Western Heritage award from the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Additionally, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arkansas Arts Council, and was a Fellow of the International Institution of Arts and Letters. Wilson was named an Ambassador of Goodwill by Oklahoma Gov. Bellmon. He illustrated several books (including the Oklahoma state history school textbook) and was known as a masterful illustrator. His horse drawings bring J. Frank Dobie's "The Mustangs" to life in particular. Other books he illustrated include Treasure Island, Company of Adventurers and Henry's Lincoln. Much of Wilson's art was created in his second-floor studio across from the Coleman Theater, an area which he called the "catbird seat" as it provided him lots of inspiration while observing life on Main Street. The Oklahoma history murals were created in the second floor of the Coleman Theater, now known as the ballroom.

Survivors include a daughter, Carrie V. Wilson, Fayetteville; three grandsons, Solomon Jones, Dallas, Texas; Ben Woodley (with the US Army at Germany), and Mick Wilson, Tulsa; and two great-grandchildren, Sheridan and Parker Wilson, Tulsa.

Funeral services will be Tuesday, May  7, at 9:30 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Miami. Rev. Geoff Buffalo will officiate. Native American graveside rites will be conducted by grandson Solomon Jones at GAR Cemetery, Miami. The family will receive friends Monday evening from 7 to 8 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church with Native American ceremonies at midnight.

In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to the New Charles Banks Wilson Gallery at N.E.O. A&M College in Miami, the Council for the Blind or the American Heart Association.

Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Paul Thomas Funeral Home, Miami.