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Ken's Childhood

Willie Mae Wilkinson

Kenneth Paul Wilkinson was born August 2, 1938 [in the Meridian Sanatorium], to Willie Mae Edwards Wilkinson and Thomas Paul Wilkinson, who were married in 1934. He was their first child. They lived in the East End part of Meridian in a working class neighborhood called Tuxedo. They lived in his maternal grandmother's [Edwards] house. The grandmother lived in the back part, and they lived in the front rooms

They were just coming out of the great depression of the late twenties and had not bought a home of their own. He was christened in the Wesley Methodist Church as a baby and was carried regularly to the church. He was a typical little boy with lots of other neighborhood children as playmates. His closest friend at that time was a little boy named Monroe Anderson. They had one fight but never stopped being friends. Monroe now lives in Birmingham, Alabama. 

Before he could talk (he was beginning to lisp a few words) his mom would hold him in her lap and they would look at pictures in the bible and she would tell him whom they were. He learned about Jesus from that.

When he was six years old, his mom took him to enroll in first grade. Tuxedo school was a small neighborhood school that only went to grade five. Then he had to transfer to Witherspoon School in another neighborhood. He loved school from the beginning and made good grades all through high school. 

When he was five years old, his mom gave him a large Bible story book. She would sit on the side of his bed every night and read Bible stories to him. He loved to be read to. When she would finish one, he would say "Read another one." He loved the stories about David, Daniel and all the great men of the Bible.

  When he was six years old, he went across the street to a Baptist Church revival. He came home and told his mom that he had given his heart to Jesus. He stayed in the Baptist Church, where most of his friends went, until he was nine years old. He went back to the Methodist Church because they had bought a house near Witherspoon School and Wesley Methodist Church. When Ken was six years old his sister Janet Elaine Wilkinson was born.

  In the new neighborhood [after moving closer to Witherspoon School] Ken made friends with several boys who were neighbors. They would play running boy games at night up and down the street until time to come in for the night. That was before television, so they played outside and were very active.

  Ken's dad was a railroad conductor who made runs to Mobile, Alabama, and Okolona, Mississippi.

  In the new neighborhood [after moving closer to Witherspoon School] Ken made friends with several boys who were neighbors. They would play running boy games at night up and down the street until time to come in for the night. That was before television, so they played outside and were very active.

  While at Witherspoon school in the fifth grade, Ken began to play tag football through sixth grade. Then he went to Kate Griffin Jr. High School and played on the Jr. High football team where he was reunited with Monroe who was also on the team.n From that time, sports was his life. He was on the track team. He liked to go fishing and went occasionally. He also loved Southern Gospel Music (gospel quartet). When he was old enough to drive, his dad taught him.

  His first job was collecting rent for a man, Mr. Gulley, who owned several houses and rented them to families who didn't own homes.

  In Meridian High School, he was a tackle on the Meridian Wildcats. He was so proud of his first letter, a great big Blue M on the white sweater that we bought him to put it on. One day in the gym he laid his sweater down to wrestle with another guy and someone stole his sweater and letter. In High School he made A's in all his subjects.

He was editor of the school paper "The Wildcat" and he was president of the Key Club.