Robert Wilson, the father of Owen and Luke Wilson, passed away yesterday after battling Alzheimer’s disease, reported KERA News.
Born and raised in New England where he met his wife, author and photographer Laura Cunningham, “love at first sight became a reality,” He said to The Dallas Morning News during an interview in 2004. They had three children together, Andrew, Owen, and Luke, all of whom became prominent actors with noteworthy careers.
Wilson worked at KERA during the ’60s and ’70s as the head of the TV station. They remember him fondly with high regard.
“[The man] who built KERA from the ground up.”
The Wilsons’ father had a successful career as a television executive. He took on the responsibility of running KERA at just 26-years-old. He revolutionized the young station and brought it from black and white to color and from film to video tape. Robert also brought public radio to the Dallas area by launching KERA FM.
He was also the man behind bringing Monty Python’s Flying Circus to broadcast on the American television circuit in 1974 after the show had ended in the UK. Terry Gilliam, of Monty Python fame, had spoken to Owen Wilson during their first meeting.
“We have something in common. Neither of us would be here without Bob Wilson.”
Owen Wilson had previously opened up about his father’s unexpected illness in 2015.
“But it does happen. Such things just happen in life. You just have to do your best to deal with it.”
He noted the “sense of community” that Dallas had during this hard period and how supportive and caring the people of the city were for his mother.
The positive impact and influence that Owen and Luke Wilson’s father had on the actors was grand. “Bobby Wilson is one of the brightest, funniest, most ironic people that I’ve ever known,” said family friend Mike Ritchey. The Wilson parents would include their children in home gatherings with professional friends and colleagues, according to Ritchey, star reporter on the Newsroom, longtime family friend of the Wilsons’ since 1970, and godfather of Luke Wilson.
“These boys grew up in a household that really appreciated brains and talent and hard work. And that didn’t have to be in the arts. Bobby and Laura felt and feel that way about any endeavor. Anything you undertake requires a talent, a style…They’re a very strong family.”
Robert Wilson also had an impact on the movies that Owen wrote. Wes Anderson’s Rushmore, which was co-written by Owen Wilson, had a line that Owen wrote that was directly taken from something that his father had said before. “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine having sons like this,” says Bill Murray’s character at a point during the film.
A legendary man, husband, and father, Robert Wilson touched the lives of many, and he was an important part of news television history, leaving an irreplaceable mark on the Dallas news industry. He helped to launch the career of journalist and novelist Jim Lehrer after putting him in command of KERA’s public affairs programming. Lehrer started off as the Dallas Times Herald city editor and ended up creating the nightly news program Newsroom due to Wilson’s hiring. Lehrer ended up getting his own PBS show, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
Robert Wilson is survived by his wife, three sons, and three grandchildren.
Luke Wilson stated that people can make a donation to PBS in his father’s memory if they wish to do so.
[Featured Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]