Bob Wilson was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the second child of five in a world-renowned American Family. His father is the late Kemmons Wilson: The Father of Hospitality and America’s Innkeeper. Kemmons Wilson was the founder and Chairman of the Board of Holiday Inn hotels. Bob’s entire upbringing was in a home of hospitality and business.
By age 16, he had his pilot’s license, following his father’s passion for aviation. Bob graduated from Southern Methodist University and went to work for the family business, but also enlisted in the Tennessee Air National Guard. During his service, he attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel flying C-124s, C-130s and C-141s.
For the last 46 years, Bob has served as Vice Chairman for the family’s privately owned business, The Kemmons Wilson Companies, with financial interests in over seventy business entities. His primary role has been in the area of construction of hotels, warehouses, time-shares, FBO’s and more.
In 1996, Bob Wilson realized his long-standing business dream. As founder and President of Wilson Air Center, Bob built the all-new FBO at Memphis International Airport. Since opening, Wilson Air Center-MEM has been recognized by flight crews as the “Number One Rated FBO in the Americas” for nine consecutive years in Aviation International News and a “Top Ten FBO” in Professional Pilot Magazine. No other FBO s has accomplished such a tremendous feat in the last 60 years. Bob’s Memphis operation also achieved the “Operational Excellence Award” by AIG Aviation Insurance in 2002…the only FBO ever awarded this designation.
In February of 2005, Wilson Air Center was awarded the largest aviation management contract in the United States at Charlotte Douglas International Airport to manage the city’s FBO. In August of 2005, Wilson Air Center announced the acquisition of an FBO at Houston Hobby Airport. The Wilson Air Center chain (Memphis, Charlotte, Houston and Chattanooga) has been voted #1 FBO chain eight times in the last nine years by Professional Pilot magazine. The Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority awarded Wilson Air Center the management contract for their new FBO that began operation in August 2011. At this time, this is the only aviation terminal in the world to receive the LEED Platinum Certification.
Bob has won several awards for his career in aviation including: – Memphis Area Aviation Association placing him in the “Memphis Aviation Legends” Hall of Fame in Oct 1998. Carnival Memphis – Business & Industry Salute – Chairman’s Award – In recognition of outstanding contributions to the Aviation Industry and Mid-South community in April, 2005. The Captain Louis L. Carruthers Sierra Hotel Award for outstanding contributions to the progress of aviation in the Memphis Community in April, 2006 and was inducted into the TENNESSEE AVIATION HALL OF FAME at the TENNESSEE MUSEUM OF AVIATION in Sevierville, TN in November, 2006.
Bob has combined his love for aviation with charitable giving and is active with the VAC Mission, the Veterans Airlift Command provides free air transportation to wounded warriors, veterans and their families for medical and other compassionate purposes and providing air transportation for the Special Olympics. Bob and his wife Susan are also supporters of Christian Brothers University, recently providing a major gift that led to the construction of the Cooper-Wilson Center for Life Sciences on the CBU campus.
Kemmons Wilson Companies activities include real estate development, insurance and construction in such areas as hotels, office buildings, FBO’s, homes and resort timeshare developments.
WILSON AIR CENTER, LLC is a Fixed Base Operation providing aircraft services such as fueling, hangars and maintenance.
“‘We are fortunate to live in the United States where anyone can be a true entrepreneur. All you need is an idea and the where with all to present it to an industry or group. As my father was quoted, “Work only a half a day; it makes no difference which half – it can be either the first 12 hours or the last 12 hours.” He was the definition of an entrepreneur. I am one who might not be able to think of a new idea such as Holiday Inn but I have insight to make something better after studying it. There’s always room for improvement in today’s business world.
This is what makes America stand above the world with new ideas. Everything is left to one’s imagination. An idea, hard work and luck make winners. “
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