Franklin Wilson

September 7, 2016

Franklin Wilson (1822-1896)

Franklin Wilson was a native of Maryland, born in 1822. He was a little man, about 135 pounds. His grandfather was shipping magnate William Wilson, a 1770 Irish immigrant to Baltimore who built up the city’s second largest clipper ship business.

Wilson aspired to the calling of pastor in his early life. He accepted the pastorate of the church William Crane founded, then called High Street, but throat trouble ended his preaching career prematurely. He resigned in 1852 after only four years in the pulpit.

He was the first state executive director of the Maryland Baptist Union Association, and served forty years at this post, 1847 to 1887. After leaving the pulpit, he turned his energies to the office of executive secretary and editor of the Maryland Baptist paper, The True Union. He stayed faithfully at the first post long enough to see the Union Association grow from sixteen churches and 1,802 total members to fifty-six churches with 11,484 members. In his day, Wilson was second in influence in Maryland only to Richard Fuller.

Franklin Wilson proved to be a wizard at administration. He sets the standard for administrative leadership of the Maryland/Delaware Convention in several vital areas. Wilson, as executive secretary, set an example as one who understood the importance of strengthening churches and starting new work. Under his tenure, the Baltimore Baptist Church Extension Society was formed in 1854 to cooperatively support new and financially limited churches. Also, he gave sacrificially of his own resources. In one fifteen-year period, denominational causes received $50,000 from his personal funds. Independently wealthy because of his family’s business, he did not accept a salary for his office as executive secretary.

He also set the standard for a vision as wide as the world. From the beginning of his ministry, Franklin Wilson viewed the world as his mission field. He was a lifelong supporter of foreign missions.

Wilson’s greatest influence came as editor of the weekly religious journal, The True Union. Before the Civil War, it served as the major means of communication about issues as diverse as the place of women in church life, revival methodology, church and state conflicts, the ethics of reading novels, the state of the Union, and slavery.

His motto grew out of the loss of his mother and all his brothers and sisters before any reached the age of forty-four. Reflecting on God’s grace at leaving him working in the field as they were one by one called home, Wilson wrote in his diary: “Life is short; let me make the most of it. Let me live to the glory of God and all will be well.”

Material used in this biography was taken from:
You Are A Great People, by W. Loyd Allen