Oral History with Jerome Wilson

Matthew R. Griffis, University of Southern Mississippi

This oral history is the property of the Roots of Community project at the University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Library and Information Science. It has been published for private use and/or research purposes only. Except for the quotation of brief excerpts in published research, no content from the interview may be reproduced in any form, in part or in whole, without written permission from the Project Director (matthew.griffis@usm.edu). Please call (601) 266-4228 for more information.


Dr. Jerome Wilson was born in Meridian, Mississippi in 1942. He attended St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Meridian from kindergarten to secondary school, whereupon he attended Dillard University in New Orleans to earn a BA in Chemistry and Mathematics.

Wilson later earned an MA in Immunology and Biochemistry from Cornell and, in 1983, earned his PhD in Epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He spent much of his career as a researcher and a research administrator in the pharmaceutical industry, later transitioning to academe when he helped set up the department of epidemiology at Howard University. Over the course of his career Wilson held appointments at the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, the Howard University Cancer Center and the Georgetown University School of Medicine, among others.

In later years Wilson took up historical research. In 2010 he and his co-author, Dr. Ethel Young (also a Meridian native) of Kean University, published African American Children and Missionary Nuns and Priests in Mississippi: Achievement Against Jim Crow Odds, a book about their educational experiences at Meridian’s St. Joseph’s Catholic School.

In his youth, Wilson lived within walking distance of Meridian’s “colored library” on 13th Street. This oral history interview, conducted on 19 November 2016, focuses on Wilson’s recollections of that library and his memories of Meridian in the 1950s and early 1960s.