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Former Columbia Union President, Neal C. Wilson,
Dies at 90

Story by Celeste Ryan Blyden

At press time on December 14, word came that Neal C. Wilson, 90, passed away. Wilson is best remembered as the president of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church from 1978-90, but during his ministry, he spent six years in the Columbia Union Conference, first as Religious Liberty secretary for two years and then as union president from 1962-66.

Wilson was born in Lodi, Calif., but traveled to Malawi, South Africa, India and Zambia with his missionary parents. He graduated from Pacific Union College (Calif.) and the Adventist Theological Seminary before beginning his pastoral ministry in Wyoming. From 1944-59, he served as a pastor and church official in Egypt, and then returned to the United States where he briefly served in the Central California Conference before coming to the Columbia Union in 1960.

Six years later, at the 50th General Conference (GC) Session in Detroit, Wilson was elected to lead the North American Division, a role he held until his election to the GC presidency. In his last editorial to members here, he wrote, “We must seek every possible way to exalt the name and the delivering power of the gospel of the Lord, Jesus Christ” (Visitor, Vol. 71, #20, July 14, 1966).

Wilson’s son, Ted, was elected president of the world church at the 59th General Conference Session in Atlanta last summer. The family is having a private graveside service this week and planning a memorial service.