MTSU Sidelines, March 28, 2018
Sixth generation Murfreesboro resident Bill Wilson is teaching locals that history is everywhere, you just have to look for it.
Having lived in Murfreesboro all of his life, Wilson has made a visible connection with the community through his ‘Mr. Murfreesboro’ Facebook page with over 10,000 followers.
On the page, Wilson posts historical photos and captions relating to the city of Murfreesboro and its residents. Locals often send him photos and other archives with historical context so that he can share them.
“I get stuff collaborated from other sources on Facebook and people who have a passion about history,” Wilson said. “It’s just amazing to see how Murfreesboro started.”
Although his creation of a Facebook page may suggest it, Wilson wasn’t the first person to have the title of Mr. Murfreesboro. The original Mr. Murfreesboro was Tommy Martin, an insurance whose son, Hunter McFarland, later passed the title to Wilson.
“(Martin) was really a known figure,” Wilson said. “He was known as Mr. Murfreesboro by writing notes to people, by going to ribbon cuttings and the births of babies. At funerals, Mr. Murfreesboro showed up.
In his research for Murfreesboro history, Wilson brought many interesting and sometimes uniquely different to the attention of others.
One of those stories was about the ‘Human Fly’, who in the 1920’s attempted to scale the Rutherford County Courthouse.
“He went around trying to collect money,” Wilson said. “He got to the top, but it had been raining (so he) slipped and fell to his death. Apparently he was buried in the buried down at the Poplar Grove Cemetery down on Church Street.
Wilson was born March 2, 1966, at the now demolished Rutherford County Hospital. His father, Floyd Wilson, was the mayor of Rutherford County in the 1980’s. He described his mother’s family as ‘educated landowners’.
“I had a great uncle who was Walt Disney’s attorney and negotiated all of the land deals for Walt Disney World in Orlando,” Wilson said.
“My mom’s side of the family was pretty well off … my dad’s family was very poor (and) they were hardworking politicians. They never went without food or anything like that … but they didn’t have a lot.”
Wilson grew up in Murfreesboro, where he attended school at Homer Pittard Campus School, Middle Tennessee Christian School and Riverdale High School. He would then attend Middle Tennessee State University from 1984 till his graduation in 1992.
“It was eight years till I graduated college,” Wilson said. “I had a good time when I was in college. I knew all the deans for the wrong reasons … My father was so glad to see me graduate. They had a degree called ‘thank you laude’. there’s cum laude and magna cum laude, and that’s all about GPA. Mine was like ‘ that God he just got out of college”.
Wilson described Murfreesboro as growing up in a ‘Norman Rockwell Town.”
“I can remember when there were 30,000 that lived here back in the 70s, and now Murfreesboro is around 130,000 (people) and, in the next 20 years, it’s going to be around 600,000. We’re the fastest growing county in the state.”
Wilson credits the city’s diversity, jobs and the university in playing a significant role towards the major growth of the city. He also explained that the city has a significant position in geography for the U.S.
“Geographically, out on Old Lascassas Pike, there is an obelisk where it shows the exact center of the state. If you go out there at the center, and then drive 500 miles and draw a circle around that area, you’re within a day’s drive of 75% of the U.S. population.
Wilson praised the cultural and religious diversity in Murfreesboro as well.
“We have a variety of people that live here.” Wilson said. “It doesn’t matter if you are Christian, Muslim, if you are a Hindu (or) a Buddhist … there’s a place of worship anywhere. the buckle of the Bible belt is right here. I think what makes Murfreesboro so strong is the diversity of people from all walks of life.”
Wilson has always had a clear passion for history. He said if he ever wasn’t working in real estate, his current career, he would be happy to be a park ranger at the Stones River National Battlefield.
“Whether you live under a bridge, or you’re the president of king of a country, everybody has a story,” Wilson said. “That’s most important.”