Your Neighbor: Meet Gray Wilson

Published 12:06 am Thursday, December 28, 2023

CLEMMONS — With many people assessing what they want from 2024, one person is wondering what he can do for others in the coming year.

Gray Wilson, a successful trial lawyer in Forsyth County for almost 47 years, is running for public office to be a Forsyth County commissioner in 2024.

Wilson grew up in a family that valued hard work, education and giving back to your community.
Whether he was participating in sports like football, wrestling, basketball or his all-time favorite, track, Wilson gave it his all. His love for running the mile, which resulted in a varsity letter, would become a lifelong passion.

If not participating in sports, Wilson enjoyed earning his Eagle rank in the Boy Scouts of America. Wilson saw firsthand how taking leadership roles in community projects made a difference.
When Wilson considered where to attend college, he took a page out of his older brother’s book and considered Davidson College.

“I decided to study English because I always had a passion for writing,” Wilson said. “I had always admired my mother who was a true scholar, with an encyclopedic knowledge of literature and a mastery of many foreign languages. I have met few people as educated in my lifetime.”

Wilson’s passion for English and writing was ignited as an undergraduate. He would go on to author a crime novel and a two-volume legal treatise on the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure.

“It’s an excellent cure for insomnia,” said Wilson, who headed up the reunion planning for his class in June. “I can’t believe it’s already been 50 years since I graduated from Davidson.”

While Wilson was a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), his deployment to the Vietnam War was deferred when he was accepted to law school at Duke University.

“After the many years of arguing at the dinner table with my intelligent siblings and parents, I realized I had a passion for advocacy,” Wilson said. “Helping others that needed a voice was appealing to me.”

After graduating from Duke University’s School of Law, Wilson served his commitment as a tank commander in Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Subsequently, the Army veteran began his legal career, which included building a successful law practice. He also continued to write and became an aviator, flying a Cessna 182 for over 40 years. Bestowing many of the same lessons that he once learned to his children: Trover, Lindsay, Hailey, Harper, Jared and Claire, Wilson said the hardest lesson was saying “No.”

“Especially when they were unable to understand it at the time,” Wilson said. “I did that a lot. The greatest thing about being a father was watching them grow and doing my best to expose them to the world, with travel and education.”

Now, Wilson is showing his grown children that standing up for what you believe in means running for public office like his own father did as mayor of Boone for the last eight years of his life. Wilson reveals the tipping point to add public servant to his plate with the support of his wife, Cheryl.

“I worked for several years with a group of lawyers and judicial officials to get the county to build that beautiful new courthouse we just dedicated this past fall in Winston-Salem,” Wilson said. “Through that process, I attended dozens of meetings of the county commission, which made me realize that our local government can do better in numerous ways.

Wilson said that he has always believed in the judicial system.

“That belief extends to law and order, with support for our Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough and his department, which is working tirelessly to keep the citizens of this county safe,” Wilsons said. “We just set a new record in homicides in Winston-Salem in 2023, and violent crime and drug trafficking are on the rise. Our county’s Drug Task Force is doing an amazing job, but we need to give our full support to law enforcement. Our sheriff’s department is understaffed, underpaid and under-appreciated. We can do better.

“We also need to be more fiscally responsible. The county has millions of dollars in funding from our tax base, and we need to spend those dollars prudently and wisely on social programs that are objectively verifiable in providing support to those who really need help, programs like Family Services and the Children’s Law Center. I am not a fan of feel-good giveaways.”

Wilson has also heard from friends and neighbors about seeing their community experience growth in a thoughtful manner.

“I do a good bit of zoning work, and I recognize the significant housing shortage we have in the county,” Wilson said. “I already think we have a decent zoning plan. But look at the 500-unit housing project the county commissioners approved several months ago off Idol Road south of town. That two-lane road was already jammed with traffic during morning and evening rush hours. You can’t fix that problem with a turn lane. So, we need planned, intelligent growth to accommodate the citizens and businesses that we attract to beautiful communities like Clemmons, which appropriately markets itself as a village.”

The father of six also wants to support the educators that influence the next generation.

“Our public schools and teachers also strive daily to provide quality education for our children,” Wilson said. “They need our support, especially now that we are trying to recover from the learning gap created by the pandemic. While rearing children in this county to be productive citizens, I have served in this area as president of the local Boy Scout council, Old Hickory, and as a board chairman at several churches. I understand the needs of working men and women trying to raise families that will have a better life than their parents may have enjoyed.

“It is the mission and duty of the commissioners to provide the leadership and stewardship necessary to keep Forsyth County safe, productive and welcome to those who choose to live among us.”