February 03, 2016
Gilbert L. "Whip" Wilson is a well-established public figure in Camden, having entered the city's political arena after a 26-year law enforcement career.
His younger brother, Carlton "Muscles" Wilson also has made a considerable impact on their community, having tutored countless youth as a longtime basketball and football coach. For years, Whip Wilson says, Muscles has been an "unsung hero."
That's no longer the case.
KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy honored the Wilson brothers on Wednesday by dedicating a new facility in their names – the Gilbert L. and Carlton E. Wilson Gymnasium. But Muscles was unable to attend, having fallen ill.
Both Whip, 68, and Muscles, 60, pictured left, are lifelong residents of Camden's Lanning Square neighborhood. Muscles was a student in the former Lanning Square School's first graduating class. That school once sat at the site of the KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy campus, which was completed in 2015.
Both brothers began their careers by serving in the U.S. Air Force and spent time coaching athletics together. Whip Wilson entered the Camden police force, ascending to lieutenant while becoming known for his community policing efforts. He served two stints on Camden City Council before being appointed to the General Assembly.
Muscles Wilson spent more than 30 years working security for the Camden Board of Education, but is best known for his service on the sidelines.
"Everybody says it but I truly mean it – the greatest dad ever. His main thing for us was to instill responsibility at an early age. He always made us pursue our own dreams – do want you want to do." – Asante Wilson, 34, Camden firefighter
He won more than 10 basketball championships coaching both Morgan Village Middle School and the Centerville Simbas, a youth league team. He also served as an assistant coach for the Camden High School's varsity basketball and freshman football teams.
"If they played ball in the city, my dad coached them at some point in their life," said Asante Wilson, who accepted the honor on Muscles' behalf.
At home, Muscles and his wife steered their six children toward education. Together, their children own seven collegiate degrees – with an eighth on the way.
"Everybody says it but I truly mean it – the greatest dad ever," said Asante Wilson, 34, a Camden firefighter. "His main thing for us was to instill responsibility at an early age. He always made us pursue our own dreams – do want you want to do."
More than 50 people gathered inside the gymnasium for a dedication ceremony that included remarks from Mayor Dana Redd, Cooper University Health Care Chairman George E. Norcross III and school Executive Director Drew Martin.
Family members, friends and others from the community lingered afterward in celebration.
"They were always there to help you. This is their life. I can't pick out one thing." – Joseph Perno, praising the brothers' dedication
Joseph Perno, an 85-year-old Lanning Square resident who lives one block from Whip Wilson, praised the brothers' dedication, saying they are readily available anytime someone has a question or a need.
"They were always there to help you," Perno said. "This is their life. I can't pick out one thing."
Ron "Itchy" Smith, the Wilson brothers' cousin, said their commitment to Lanning Square is a product of the era in which they grew up.
"It was family-oriented," Smith said. "Everybody shared everything. It was as simple as that."
On Wednesday, the community shared the joy of recognizing them.
"For us to be honored like this is just unbelievable," said Whip Wilson, who shares six children with his wife, Martha. "I feel so unworthy for this honor – I'll take it though. It's a blessing."
PhillyVoice Managing Director Lexie Norcross sits on the Cooper Foundation Board of Trustees. Her father, George E. Norcross III is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Cooper Health System.