In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Ernest Clay Wilson Jr., 96

Ernest Clay Wilson Jr., 1924-2021

Ernest Clay Wilson Jr., 1924-2021

Ernest Clay Wilson Jr., an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel among the American Affinity Peoples in Brazil, died Apr. 18, 2021, in Longview, Texas. He was 96.

Wilson was born Aug. 18, 1924, in Garrett, Texas, to the late Ernest Clay Wilson Sr. and Myrtle Virginia Kirby Wilson.

As a young man, he served as a radio operator in the Navy during World War II. After being discharged in 1945, he entered Baylor University, Waco, Texas, where he would receive the Bachelor of Arts in 1949. He married Billie Francis Haynie on September 12, 1947.

Wilson received the Master of Education from Southwest Texas State College (now Texas State University), San Marcos, Texas. While attending school, he also taught school and coached.

He served as a pastor in Kyle, Texas, and later in Wheatly, Kentucky, while he earned the Master of Divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

In 1958, the Wilsons answered the call to missions in Brazil. During his student years, they had many friends who were planning to become missionaries and associated with others who were already serving. When seeking missionary appointment, Wilson wrote, that missionary to Brazil Victor Davis visited them in 1958 and told them of needs in Brazil. That led them to contact the Foreign Mission Board. After seminary, he wrote, “We knew that we must seek the Lord’s leadership immediately.”

The Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) appointed them in 1959 to serve in Brazil.

Over the next 32 years, said his family, the Brazilian people would become his greatest passion. He held many roles, they said, but focused on raising up Brazilian pastors and being pastor of the most neglected, struggling churches. Wilson earned a Doctor of Divinity and finished his time in Brazil teaching at the Baptist seminary in Goiania.

After his retirement in 1991, Wilson continued advocating for missions and serving as pastor of struggling churches.

Wilson was preceded in death by his wife of 72 years, Billie Frances Wilson, and his son James David Wilson.

He is survived by daughter-in-law Kerstin West Wilson; sons, Robert Bruce Wilson (Cathy), Mark Daniel Wilson (Liz), Michael Lee Wilson (Donna); 16 grandchildren; and 24 great-grandchildren.

A graveside service was held April 21, 2021, at Akers Cemetery, Sherman, Texas.

Donations in his memory may be made to the Lottie Moon Offering, IMB, 3806 Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA 23230, or online at

Read an obituary here.