Frances Wood Wilson was born in West Virginia on December 5, 1881. Her husband, Fred Wilson, was born in West Virginia as well, in 1890. After completing his education in West Virginia, Fred went to work in a men’s clothing store. At some point after marrying Frances, the Wilsons moved to Atlanta in the early decades of the twentieth century, and Fred opened a men’s clothing store on Peachtree Street. Though he would move on to other entrepreneurial ventures, he maintained a reputation for being a sharp dresser all of his life.
Fred sold his store in 1932 and went to work for Georgia Power Company as an assistant to company president Preston Arkwright. Wilson is credited with convincing Arkwright that Georgia Power should not only produce electricity, but should also sell electrical appliances in their local offices. Arkwright agreed, and the move turned out to be a big win for the company, which made money off the appliances and the electricity they demanded.
Fred Wilson had begun investing in Atlanta real estate from his earliest days in Georgia, and he eventually resigned from Georgia Power in order to focus on his own business initiatives. He eventually owned and developed shopping centers, apartment complexes, and hotels. The Wilsons lived in the Druid Hills neighborhood in Atlanta and owned an Angus farm in Fulton County that covered nearly 2,000 acres and was considered one of the best in the southeast.
When the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway purchased controlling interest of the stock of the Central of Georgia Railway in the mid 1950s, they placed the stock in a voting trust, with Fred Wilson named voting trustee. Wilson also served on the Central of Georgia’s Board of Directors from 1955 until his death in 1960.
Fred and Frances Wilson were members of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Atlanta. Fred established the Frances Wood Wilson Foundation in his wife’s honor in 1954. The Foundation supports charitable, religious, civic, and educational activities in the state of Georgia and the Christian Science church in Boston.
Fred B. Wilson died on October 10, 1960, at the age of 70. A portion of his assets were transferred to the Foundation at the time. Frances Wood Wilson died on December 27, 1967, age 86, and the remainder of the Wilson’s assets were transferred at that time. They had no children. The Frances Wood Wilson Foundation continues the Wilsons’ spirit and commitment to philanthropy.
On May 12, 2005, the Foundation established the Frances Wood Wilson Foundation Fund at the Georgia Historical Society as part of a National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant, ensuring that the Society’s mission to collect, examine, and teach Georgia history will continue far into the future.