William Wilkerson, known affectionately as "Billy," was born Jan. 2, 1939, at West Helena, Ark., and graduated from West Helena High School in 1957.
After graduation, Wilkerson enrolled at Mississippi State where he ran track. He later transferred to Arkansas State University, and continued his track career there. While at ASU, he met his future bride, Ruth. The couple married in 1960.
After completing his college career, Wilkerson began teaching science, track and field, and cross country at Delta C-7 at Deering.
Between 1960 and 1967, Wilkerson coached five district championship teams, finished second in the 1964 Missouri State Class C track and field championships and won the 1965 Missouri State Class S track and field championship.
In 1968, Wilkerson moved to the Kennett School District, continuing his career as a science teacher and track and field/cross country coach. While at Kennett, Wilkerson's teams won district titles in 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1979, and 1980. The 1980 team also captured the Boys Class 3A track and field championship.
Many other championships followed throughout the early 1980's and into the 1990's.
His records rank among best in the state and his win/loss record in southeast Missouri is unmatched.
"Coach Wilkerson was my cross country coach at Kennett High School in the late 70's and he was a fantastic coach," said former student and Kennett native Daryl Wilcoxson in a taped interview. "He was stern and made you work a lot, but he was also fun. We ran out to the levees and around town, on the stairs, and out to something he called 'the single tree.' He was a fantastic coach and this honor is well deserved."
After his daughters graduated, Wilkerson retired from coaching. However, the chance to coach his grandchildren brought the coach out of retirement for one more run.
A few other accomplishments Wilkerson achieved in his career include:
* Being a member of the 1984 officiating crew for the summer Olympic games at Los Angeles;
* Serving as secretary of the Southeast Missouri Coaches Association from 1970-1981;
* Being elected National High School Athletic Coaches Association executive secretary for Missouri in 1980, and;
* Serving as a track and field rules interpreter for Missouri State High School Activities Association from 1976-2003.