Robert A. “Bob” Wilson — father of Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, and Andrew Wilson — has died, Luke confirmed to the Dallas Morning News. Luke told the outlet that his dad died Friday after years of battling Alzheimer’s disease. He was 75.
A longtime presence in Dallas’ television arena, Bob helped pave the way for KERA, North Texas’ public broadcasting station. His influence inspired a 2011 documentary called Bob Wilson and the Early Years of KERA, released as the station marked its 50th anniversary — a celebration whose gala Bob was too sick to attend at the time, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Bob’s impact on public television also included hiring then-city-editor of The Dallas Times Herald Jim Lehrer to create and host Newsroom, a nightly news series that went on to clinch multiple awards. He was also responsible for bringing Monty Python’s Flying Circus to the U.S., having KERA be the first American station to air it in 1974.
Bob’s legacy over a 50-plus-year career — he was placed in charge of KERA in 1967 — extends to the people around him, including Lehrer, who told The Dallas Morning News Friday that he “would have never, ever gone into public broadcasting” if it hadn’t been for Bob.
“The one thing Bob contributed above and beyond everything else was absolute energy,” added Lehrer, whose first TV job was as the Newsroom host and who later anchored PBS’ The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
“This man operated at full blast,” Lehrer continued. “Neither one of us knew a damn thing about television, but Bobby had it in him, and he put KERA on the map.”
Speaking to the Dallas Morning News in 2015, Owen, 48, touched on his dad’s illness, which he’d already been battling for some time.
“It is a rough thing,” he said. “It’s one of those things where if somebody had said 10 years ago, when my dad and I were joking around, having a putting match, that this is the position your dad’s going to be in, where he basically needs 24-hour care, you’d think, ‘Gosh, I won’t be able to handle that. That’s just not possible.’
“But it does happen. Such things just happen in life,” he continued. “You just have to do your best to deal with it. You’ve got no choice but to accept it. And then, you sort of still look for the things to be grateful for. He is at home, taken care of, and he has people around that love him.”
Bob is survived by his three sons, wife Laura Wilson and multiple grandchildren. Luke, 45, urged those who wish to make contributions in his father’s memory to do so through donations to PBS.