USDA’s Saul T. Wilson dies after brief illness
Worked to eradicate disease, keep food supply safe
Dr. Saul T. Wilson, former veterinarian with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) died February 1 after a brief illness.
Wilson was a member of the first pre-veterinary medicine class at Tuskegee University and in the second class of Tuskegee veterinary school graduates when he received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1950. After graduation, Wilson began his career with USDA’s Bureau of Animal Industries (which later became part of APHIS) as a field veterinarian and one of the country’s first African-American public veterinarians. He worked on the Mexico-U.S. Foot-and-Mouth Disease Eradication Commission. It was his leadership, expertise, and dedication, along with the empathy he showed Mexican livestock producers, that helped eradicate this dreaded disease when no one thought it could be done and kept it from re-infecting the United States.
Wilson served in the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps from 1952 to 1954, working to protect the food supply of U.S. troops. He received his Master’s in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health in 1955. He then returned to APHIS Veterinary Services (VS), where he was pivotal in the eradication of many livestock diseases including hog cholera and exotic Newcastle disease. Wilson had many roles in APHIS – from diagnostician to epidemiologist and Director to Assistant Administrator. Throughout his federal career, Wilson made outstanding contributions to the health of U.S. livestock and poultry populations. In 1986, he received the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executive Service and USDA’s Distinguished Service and Superior Service Awards.
After he retired from APHIS in 1989, Wilson returned to his alma mater and served as a professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Tropical Animal Health. Even after retiring from Tuskegee, he continued as a consultant to the veterinary program there and inspired many veterinary students to go on to practice public veterinary medicine.
In 1991, to honor Wilson’s many accomplishments, VS established The Saul T. Wilson Jr. Internship Program. This mentorship and career development program provides financial support and paid summer employment to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing biomedical science and veterinary medical careers.
Wilson is survived his daughter, Adrienne; two grandsons, Ryan and Damien; one brother, Sherald; and one sister, Mary Elizabeth. He was preceded in death by his wife, Alva Marian.