Charles E. Wilson, DDS, CDA past president, died Dec. 23, 2020, at his home in Fairfield, California. He was 96 years old.
Dr. Wilson was a respected leader in the dentistry profession who oversaw and contributed to monumental milestones throughout CDA’s history and organized dentistry.
Dentistry, however, was not always his first love. Wilson joined the Navy Reserve in 1942 at age 18 through a program called V-12 that paid for students’ dental and medical education and training. The program’s purpose was to ensure there would be enough dentists and physicians to care for the troops returning from war.
He was in medical school studying to become a physician when the trajectory of his life changed. To his surprise, the Navy put him in dental school at the University of Missouri in Kansas City where his passion for the profession began to blossom.
“The longer I stayed in dentistry just to see how I was going to like it, the better I liked it,” Wilson said during an interview with CDA in early 2020. “So I stuck with it and I haven’t been sorry at all.”
After graduating in 1947, Wilson, who was born in Louisville, Kentucky, moved his family to Tulelake, California, and opened his first dental office. In 1948, he became a CDA member and began a decades-long career in organized dentistry.
Wilson never shied away from being a leader. From his adolescence up until his retirement in 1992, he held numerous leadership roles across several organizations.
“I spent the first 20 years of my life being president of everything I was in,” he said. “I just enjoyed participating in things that I was involved with because I wanted to know what was going on.”
Wilson served as president of CDA from 1971-72. It was during his presidency that Northern and Southern California unified to become one membership organization in 1973. Throughout his 45-year career, he held several other leadership positions in dentistry, including CDA speaker of the House of Delegates and vice president of the American Dental Association. He also served on the National Board of Dental Examiners.
He was also at the forefront when the California Dental Service, now known as Delta Dental, was founded and served as the company’s president for one year.
Outside of dentistry, he was president of the Chamber Commerce in Fairfield and president of the Green Valley Country Club.
Described as a “gentle hero,” peers say Wilson carried a large presence in dentistry and will be remembered with gratitude, kindness and respect.
“Fortunately, there are some members of our profession that truly make it better with their dedication and energy; Charlie Wilson was certainly one who did,” said Henrick Hansen, DDS, CDA member and friend of Wilson. “He will be remembered with love by those fortunate enough to have known him. I am one of those fortunate ones.”
Wilson was married to his late wife Eleanore Kandra for 72 years and is survived by four children (John, Tom, Rob and Denise), eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.