My Uncle Porterfield Wilson

Portfield Wilson

My uncle Porterfield Wilson built one of Michigan's first & largest Black-owned car dealerships in America.  When the General Motors dealership program became available for Blacks, Porterfield was one of the first to take advantage of the opportunity.  So, in 1970, he was recognized as the first Black-owned Pontiac dealership in the Midwest when he was awarded his 1st dealership.  He moved his Pontiac Dealership to Livernois in 1978 and then he added the Mazda and Honda dealership on the next block over in 1979.

He also put a used car dealership across the street.  So, to understand how large it had become, the buildings on Livernois where the dealerships use to be are the buildings where the CVS, the medical building, and the church across the street that used to be a bank was a used car lot.  The little car wash and detailing spot that's still there, my uncle had that building 1st.  Then in 1983, he moved the Honda dealership to where it still is to this day, in Ferndale on Woodward off 8 Mile.

All of this from a young man who was kicked out of the house or bouched when he was so young he dropped out of the 5th grade to make it on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee.  He found himself serving the country as a paratrooper in the Korean War.  With this type of life, he found himself in Detroit in the 1950s where he worked at a few jobs like assembly and night Clark.  But, it's that dope ability to sell just about anything that caused someone to refer him to be a salesman at Bill Snethkamp, Inc. in 1962.  He also married his lovely wife, Barbara Jean Fuller of Dallas, Texas that same year.

It's amazing how humble beings where you have to work so hard for life leads to so many great things if you stay steadfast.  In 1978, Mr. Wilson was invited to the White House to make Jimmy Carter look good like they really care about Black people.  But, Nashville gave him the Key to the City!  A member of the board of directors of First Independence National Bank, United Foundation Advisory Board, and the Booker T. Washington Business Association.  He was appointed Civil Service Commissioner of Personnel for the City of Detroit, a life member of the NAACP, a member of the Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce, Tri-County Pontiac Dealers Association, National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers, and the National Automobile Dealers Association.  He was also a member of the 100 Club and the Cotillion Club.

It's so beautiful that a businessman that built his business from the ground up has been listed in so many publications like USA Today as one of the Top 20 Black Businesses in America, Black Enterprise Magazine's Top 100 Black-Owned Businesses, featured in Jackie B. Cooper's Superstar Magazine, a spotlight in the Superstar's of the National Automobile Association's Annual Meeting, and he was cited in Who's Who in Michigan, and in Black America.

Porterfield and Barabra only had one son, Chris Wilson is the way I will always remember him, because he also has passed away on Dec. 3, 2009.  Love forever, because so many good people go too early.  At the end of the day, I feel like my uncle Porterfield also passed away too early at the tender age of his early 50s.  Because of this, I wish everyone with the great vision of creating anything the power to build this great peaceful life for us.  It was the late 70s or early 80s when Porterfield invited his family to join him in Detroit to share in the success.  My father lucked up and was born tall, so he actually worked his way into getting into the NBA, but an injury took him out before he could even make a name for himself.  At the same time, this meant that he was the only brother to have a college degree which helped him become vice-president of Porterfield Wilson Pontiac, Mazada, and Honda on Livernois.

The dealerships were not the top of the vision and mission for Porterfield Wilson as he was also a member of the Detroit Boat Club, Renaissance Club, Motor City Yacht Club, and the Turnberry Yacht Club of North Miami.  He loved taking us out on his yacht and my cousin grew up boating and owning a speedboat.  It was on the boat where Porterfield and Mayor Coleman Young would get together and chill-out.  Out yeah, and Tommy Hearns!  These great men were good friends and more people like these good people, but I was too young to know how they were.

Connections like these good people are why the next big vision and endeavors for Mr. Wilson was the development of his biggest project, Porterfield's Marina Village, on Detroit's waterfront.  My uncle wanted to own a luxury high-rise, restaurant, shops, but most importantly this was all revolved around the marina he was building.  That's a lot of power, so to all my good people who find inspiration in this post, the more power to you.  Let's build.  Porterfield passed away from a heart attack on Jan. 16, 1989, in Harper Hospital.


This is what a history of African-American New Car Dealers wrote about Mr. Wilson.

PORTERFIELD WILSON was in the used car business in Detroit in the 1960s when GM contacted him relative to a Pontiac dealership that had become available in downtown Detroit. Wilson was appointed in December 1970. He also acquired GMC Truck and later, with his wife (Barbara), was appointed the Honda dealer in Ferndale (1979). He also acquired the Mazda franchise which he dueled with Honda. Wilson was pro-active as a member of NAMAD and participated in all of the initial meetings with the GM hierarchy.