Historical Marker Dedication—Kenneth Leon “Tug” Wilson
Tug Wilson Historical Committee and the Illinois State Historical Society
An historical marker recognizing Atwood native Kenneth L. "Tug" Wilson, an Olympian, athletics director, second Commissioner of the Big Ten, and president of the U.S. Olympic Committee will be dedicated at 11 a.m. Saturday, August 22, 2020, at Rajah Park located in the 200 block of Magnolia Street in Atwood.
Kenneth Leon “Tug” Wilson was a collegiate athlete, Olympian, educator, Rotarian and amateur sports administrator who promoted physical fitness, sportsmanship and humanitarian service around the world.
Born March 27, 1896 in Atwood, Wilson grew up about a mile northeast of this location, running to and from school for athletic training. at Atwood High School, the 6’1” Wilson excelled in basketball and track and field.
After graduating in 1914, Wilson taught at a one-room school. As a University of Illinois student he excelled at football, basketball, track and field and leadership.
In 1920, Wilson qualified for the U.S. Olympic team by throwing a javelin made from a hickory fence post taken from his family farm. At the Antwerp Games, Wilson finished 10th in the discus throw.
In his professional career, Wilson served as coach and athletics director at Drake University, elevating the national profile of the Drake Relays, and athletics director at Northwestern University from 1925-45, where he initiated the first night football game in Big Ten Conference history.
As the second Big Ten commissioner from 1945-61, Wilson enforced established rules governing financial aid to athletes, ensured athletes were bona fide students and promoted racial equality. He also negotiated the Rose Bowl pact with the Pacific Coast Conference.
Wilson served as secretary-treasurer of the NCAA and from 1953-65 as president of the U.S. Olympic Committee. He supported his hometown through school donations, motivational speeches and frequent visits. He died Feb. 2, 1975 and is buried in Lexington, Illinois.
200 block of Magnolia Street
Atwood, Illinois 61913 (Map)