MOUNT VERNON — Friday night will be a special one for many former Yellow Jackets. In a special halftime event, the alumni of the football classes of 1955, 1956 and 1957 will present the Mount Vernon City Schools with a plaque in honor of former Yellow Jacket head coach Ben Wilson. Wilson's daughter, Elizabeth Wilson Winterbone and her sons Oliver and Phillip, are making the trip from Wichita, Kansas, and will be on hand for this special event.
Coach Wilson coached the Yellow Jackets to back-to-back undefeated seasons in 1956 and 1957, registering nine wins in each season. Wilson came to Mount Vernon in 1955 after successful coaching stints as freshman coach at his alma mater Heidelberg College (24-3) and as head coach at Wellston High School in Wellston (31-6-1).
Though his time in Mount Vernon was short, lasting only three seasons, he left a lasting impression. His 1955 team went 3-5 before he produced Mount Vernon’s very first undefeated, untied football team with nine wins and followed with a second undefeated, untied team in 1957, again with nine wins.
The “Fighting Yellow Jackets,” as Wilson called them, were Central Buckeye League Champions in 1956 and 1957, including victories over highly respected Upper Arlington and Culver Military Academy. They were rated as high as eighth in what was a one-division system. These team members also hold the Yellow Jacket record of 19 wins in a row. Following the 1957 undefeated season, Wilson was named head coach of the South Team for the 1958 Ohio High School Football all star game.
Upon leaving Mount Vernon, Wilson became head coach at Sandusky High School in 1958 and moved on to Warren Harding High School in 1960. In 1965, he accepted an assistant football coaching position at The University of Virginia. And, in 1969, Wilson was named head football coach at Wichita State University.
After just one season at Wichita State, Wilson's life and that of his wife, Helen, came to an end. They were among 31 coaches, players and others who died in a team plane crash in the mountains of Colorado. Wilson was 44. He and his wife left behind their children, Elizabeth and John, who is unable to attend.
A documentary on the plane crash is being produced by public television station KPTS in Wichita, Kansas and is scheduled to air there on Oct. 8. Snippets from the production are available online at www.kpts.org.
The bronze plaque in Wilson's honor, which was created by Ralston Art Memorial, will be placed at the main entrance to Yellow Jacket Stadium. It was taken from a drawing of Wilson, which originally appeared in the Mount Vernon News in August 1956.
Eighteen former players, managers and cheerleaders are scheduled to be on-hand Friday night for the presentation as well as former assistant coaches Jack Wilson and Chuck Hill.
The festivities of the day include: an informal gathering upstairs at the Alcove Restaurant starting at 1:30 p.m.; a “sharing” time at 4:15 p.m.; group pictures at 5 p.m.; a spaghetti dinner at 5:30 p.m. The gathering from 1:30 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. is open to anyone who may wish to visit with the group. Any team member, manager or cheerleader of these teams who may not have been contacted are invited to come and join the ceremonies.