If one had been asked to name a few of the leaders in the business and civic life of Nashville, Forrest Wilson would have been very near the top of the list. He was a man whose real interest in his community and in the people who made it up, made him one of the most popular and respected men in a town of leaders. For nearly 68 years this descendant of prominent Pike County families made Nashville his home where he owned and managed the Coca-Cola Bottling Company.
Forrest Wilson was born in Pike County on 7-16-1889, one of three sons of W.W. and Laura (Biggs) Wilson. He attended Nashville High School. Later attended Draughon's Business College in Little Rock, AR. When he graduated from college he joined his father in management of the Coca-Cola Plant in Nashville, AR.
At the time of his death in 1967, he was president and owner of Nashville Coca-Cola Bottling Co. In addition he was a charter member and director in the Federal Savings & Loan Association, and was Secretary of the Howard County Livestock Sales and Fair Association. He had farm lands in Howard and Miller county and orchards in Howard County. For 14 years he was president of the First National Bank in Nashville. He served in World War I as Quartermaster Sergeant, and at the time the war ended, he was in the Officers Training Corps. He was a commander of the American Legion. At the time of his death, he was the only continuous service charter member of the Nashville Rotary Club, for which he served two terms as president.
He was interested in every phase of community life, and no one was a more active and generous contributor to its growth. He was a member of the Nashville Industrial Committee and worked toward bring industry to Nashville. He gave the land for the Wilson Baseball Park, which is named after him, and helped build the stands. He served two terms as president of the Chamber of Commerce and was a member of the Board of Stewards of the First United Methodist Church, of which he and his wife were active members. He was instrumental in originating the Howard County Peach Festival, an annual celebration held in Nashville. He was the first General Chairman. He was a member of the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages, and of the Arkansas Bottlers Association, the latter of which he was a past president. Mr. Wilson like to fish and hunt, and his particular hobbies were deep sea fishing and traveling.
In 1920 Forrest Wilson married Irene Ammonette. The Wilson's had two sons; both of whom served overseas in World War II. The elder son, Dr. Ralph C. Wilson is a radiologist in Oklahoma City. The younger son, Ramon F. Wilson succeeded his father as Chairman of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Nashville.
William Walker Wilson was born in Talladega, Alabama Feb. 14th, 1859. He was a son of Abel Fletcher (Abe) Wilson and Mary Phillips, natives of Jasper County, Georgia and Alabama respectively. They migrated overland on Nov. 2, 1871, by oxen-drawn wagon train from Talladega, AL., arriving at Rock Creek in Pike County, Arkansas on December 15th, 1871.
W.W. Wilson received a good English education, having attended the Academy at Murfreesboro and the Arkansas Industrial University at Fayetteville, AR. He was deputy sheriff of Pike County for five years. Afterward he was engaged in teaching. W.W. Wilson later moved from Pike County to Clark County were he dealt with real estate and taught school. Around 1900 he moved to Nashville, AR. He was very instrumental in paving the road from Nashville to Murfreesboro. W.W. Wilson was also interested in railroads coming through Nashville and worked hard on these projects.
His son, Joe B. was a civil engineer and surveyor of the railroad sites. W.W. was engaged in the mercantile business in Nashville under the name of Wilson and Galloway at the time he was granted a contract to bottle Coca-Cola in 1911.
W.W. Wilson and Laura Fletcher Biggs were married December 16th, 1885. They had three children; Joseph Biggs Wilson, Forrest William Wilson, and James Walker Wilson.
Joseph Biggs Wilson (b. 9-12-1886, d. 3-241979) married Nell Hancock. They were divorced, and he married Emma Jean Gaines (7-3-1945). They had one son Joseph Biggs Jr. He died of a automobile accident on October 16th 1965. Forrest W. Wilson (b. 7-16-1889, d 11.21.1967) married Nanette Irene Ammonette (11-8-1920). They had two sons, Ralph Courtney and Ramon Forrest. James Walker Wilson was born in 1896 and died in Ft. Worth (9-28-1932).
W.W. Wilson later passed in September 7, 1932. Laura Wilson died August 16th, 1942. They are buried in the Wilson family plot in Nashville Cemetery.
Kenneth Wilson, son of Ramon Wilson and Nelda Smith Wilson, was born on December 19th, 1953, in Nashville, Arkansas. Kenneth attended public schools in Nashville and graduated with honors in 1972. He was an outstanding athlete and earned a total of 14 letters in football, basketball, track and baseball while in high school. His discus throw in high school remained a Nashville Scrapper record for 29 years. He graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1977 with a business degree. While attending the university, he was a member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity.
In the summer of 1966 at the age of 12, young Kenneth began his career in the Nashville Coca-Cola Bottling Company, and in 1977 his full tenure began with the company. He presently is the Chairman and President of the Nashville Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company, following in the footsteps of his father, Ramon Wilson. In 1987 the company purchase the Dr Pepper franchise for most of it's Coca-Cola franchise area. In 2009 Nashville Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company became the #1 per capita Dr Pepper Bottler in the world.
Kenneth currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Arkansas Beverage Association having served as it's chairman in 2005. He is a current board member of Gulf States Canners Inc. In 1972 Kenneth was elected to the Howard County Quorum Court where he served as a JP for 10 years. He also served for 7 years on the Texarkana Airport Authority and served as it's chairman in 2007-2008..
He also served on the St. James Day School Board of Directors from 2004-2007. He served on the Caddo Area Boy Scout Council Board from 2003-2008 and served as it's foundation chair in Howard County. Kenneth has been a member of the Nashville Rotary Club since 1977 having served as it's president in 1990-1991 and a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow. He also is a dual member of the Reno, NV Rotary Club. Kenneth served as president of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce in 1980.
Ramon Forrest Wilson was born July 5th, 1923, in Nashville, to Forrest Wilson and Irene Amonette Wilson. He received his education attending Nashville High School and Henderson State Teachers College. Entering in the Marine Corps in March 1944, he received boot training at San Diego, CA. and advanced training at Oceanside. He was trained in infantry and was transferred to artillery where he qualified as a rifleman. After one year's service in the United States, he was attached to the Fifth Marine Division, on Nov. 19, 1944. On Dec. 25, 1944, the Fifth Marine Division boarded a ship for the Pacific theater, and after 45 days at sea, with a brief stop in Hawaii, his company landed on Iwo Jima, around 3:30 P.M. on D-Day. For action at Iwo Jima and for meritorious service he was awarded the American Defense and Asiatic Pacific Ribbons, and the Presidential Unit Citation. After serving six months overseas, he was honorably discharged at Mare Island Navy Yard, CA., August 30th, 1945.
After discharged he returned to Nashville where he joined his father in the bottling industry, and soon began to buy stock in the family industry. In 1962 as plant manager, he helped steer the company through a major building program.
At the death of his father, Forrest Wilson, in 1967, he and his family acquired the remaining stock in the Nashville Coca-Cola Bottling Company. In 1981 he helped steer the company through another major building program.
Mr. Wilson was the president of the Wilson Corporation doing business as the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Nashville. He was a member of the Coca-Cola Bottlers Association, Arkansas Coca-Cola Bottlers Council, Arkansas Soft Drink Bottlers Association and National Soft Drink Association.
Mr. Wilson was a member of the Nashville Rotary Club for over 67 years, Nashville Chamber of Commerce, life member of the Howard County Heritage Club, and a member of the West Sunset Church of Christ where is served as a deacon for over 56 years.
On June 29, 1950 Ramon Wilson married Nelda Lorene Smith. Ramon and Nelda had three children, Kenneth Ramon, David Walker and Elizabeth Suzanne Overton.
Mrs. Wilson passed away on October 16th, 2009 and Mr. Wilson later passed on August 12th, 2012. Both very strong leaders in our community. They both were honored post humorously by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce in 2013 for the Lifetime Achievement Award for their service to their community.
Pictured on the left is the employees of Nashvile Coca-Cola Dr Pepper Bottling Company. Without their hard work and dedication our company would not be where it is today!