James “Dr Jim” Wilson


Graveside memorial services for 88-year old James John Wilson III, better known as Dr Jim, are Sunday, October 17, 2021 at 2:00 at the Wilson Family Cemetery in the #4 Community near Oglala, SD.

James John Wilson III “Akicita Cikala” was born on October 23, 1931 in Pine Ridge, SD to James J. Wilson II and Julia Claire (Janis) Wilson.  Dr Jim made his journey to the Spirit World on April 5, 2020 at the Home Plus Hospice in Rapid City, SD.

Dr Jim was active in football, track, speech, paper, and public speaking at Oglala Community High School, where he graduated in 1950 as Valedictorian. 

It was at the school that he met Florence Whipple, his future wife and mother of his children. 

He enlisted in the US Navy and completed two Korean tours from  1951-1955, then went to college and earned his BS Ed. in Social Science and Business Education from Northern State College.

He went to earn two advanced degrees from Arizona State University: an M. A. in Guidance and Counseling and his Ed. D. in Education and Psychology. The latter brought the nickname “Dr Jim”.  

Dr Jim held various positions in education throughout his career. He was an elementary and junior high teacher on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation and on the Hopi Indian Reservation.  

He was a faculty associate in education and psychological testing at Arizona State and an assistant professor of education at Chadron State College in Chadron, NE. 

After receiving his doctorate, he became Director of the Indian Division of the Office of Economic Opportunity in Washington, D.C., and then executive director of the Southwestern Cooperative Educational Laboratory, Inc. in Albuquerque, NM. 

Dr Jim served as Tribal Planning Director of the Oglala Sioux Tribe from 1973 to 1976 under his brother, 2-term OST President Dick Wilson.

Dr Jim then founded and owned his own company, Wilco Business Services, where he mainly provided consultant services. He also served as Principal of Pine Ridge School from 1985 to 1987.

Dr Jim is survived by his daughters, Estherlyn “Lyn” J. Wilson and Madonna “Donna” Whipple-Wilson both of Rapid City, SD; son, Thomas “Tom” T. Wilson of Pine Ridge, SD; 20 grandchildren; 32 great grandchildren; and 2 great-great grandchildren.

James was preceded in death by his parents, Julia C. (Janis) Wilson and James J. Wilson II; his first wife and mother of all his children, Florence E. (Whipple) Wilson; second wife Clarice (Clarkson) Wilson; children James J. Wilson IV, Charles C. Wilson, and Edna G.I. Wilson; siblings George F. Wilson, Lester Wilson, Woodrow “Bud” Wilson, Richard “Dick” Wilson(2 Time Tribal Chairman), Lyle Wilson, and Edna (Wilson) Shangreaux; and grandchildren Kateri Wilson, Cassandra Pine, Christina Lone Elk, and Andrea Cortier.

Sioux Funeral Home in Pine Ridge is in charge of arrangements for Dr Jim Wilson


In May of 1969, I graduated from Black Hills State College with a Bachelor of Science Degree.  I decided go to graduate school to earn a Master’s Degree.  I was looking for grants for graduate school when my grandmother showed me a newspaper article about a special law program for Indian students at the University of New Mexico School of Law.  I applied and was accepted in the program, so my wife and oldest daughter and I, spent the summer of 1969 in Albuquerque while I attended the program. 

The UNM summer law program was very helpful in allowing me to prepare and adjust to law school and graduate with a Juris Doctorate Degree from the University of North Dakota School of Law in May, 1972.  The program also paid for my tuition and living expenses while attending law school at UND.

While attending the summer pre-law program at UNM in 1969, I learned that the program was started and funded by the Indian Desk of the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) in Washington, D.C., and that the Director of the Indian Desk was an Oglala Sioux named Dr Jim Wilson.  The first time I recall seeing Dr Jim was when he showed up at the UNM Law School to see Fred Hart, the Dean.

My mother later told me that she knew the Wilson family and Jim Wilson and his brother Dick Wilson when they were young boys. She attended school at Oglala Community School in Pine Ridge from grades 1-12, and one of her best friends and classmates was Edna Wilson, Dr Jim’s sister. 

I worked as a summer intern at Washington, D.C. law firm during the summer of 1971, and was very proud of the fact that Dr Jim Wilson was the Director of the Indian Desk of OEO, Leo Vocu was Executive Director of NCAI, Louis Bruce was Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and Wyman Babby was the BIA Aberdeen Area Director – all at the same time and all Oglala Sioux tribal members.

In later years, I became good friends with Dr. Jim.  I would occasionally visit him and his wife at their home off Sheridan Lake Road in the Black Hills.  I knew of his many accomplishments, but never once heard him brag about them and the influence he had across Indian county.  

Most OST tribal members do not know about the input he had in President Nixon’s July 8, 1970 Message to Congress which established the federal policy of “self-determination without termination” that we are living under today.  Nor do they know that it was Dr Jim who was responsible for OEO-funded programs such as the CAP, Head Start, VISTA, and Job Corps programs. 

The OEO funded summer law program at UNM was responsible for giving many Indian students the opportunity to graduate from law school.  My classmates from the 1969 summer program included Ralph Keen, Rod Lewis, Tom Fredricks, Richard Trudell, John Sinclair, Gary Kimble and Phil LaCourse.  Many of these individuals are now prominent Indian lawyers and leaders.

There have been many influential tribal leaders of tribes and national organizations over the years such as Wendell Chino, Roger Jourdain, Don Wright, Billy Frank Jr, John Echohawk, and Suzan Harjo, and business men like Tom Love whose lasting nation-wide influence can be seen every time you stop to buy gas at a gas station/convenience store.

But, in my opinion, the most influential Indian in the second half of the 20th Century was Dr. James Wilson whose nation-wide influence can be seen in both Indian and non-Indians communities. 
I would not be a law school graduate and licensed attorney today if it wasn’t for Dr. Jim.