Judith Smith Wilson and her partner, Paul Dunn Jr., have both led interesting lives. Interesting enough to write books about them, so that’s just what she did.
Wilson is the author of “Our Friend Precious the Bobcat” and Five Star Readers favorite “One Way Out; One Man’s Journey to the NFL.”
Wilson has always wanted to be an artist and she always wanted to go to Africa. When she lived Los Angeles as a teenager, she had expressed her interest in art but her father told her that she had to find a job where she could make a real living. He wanted her to go to college to become a secretary or a nurse.
This was back in 1959. In those days, a person didn’t disobey their parents. She put her dream on hold and got a job working in a jewelry store, got married and had a couple of children. She woke up one day and realized that she was wasting her time and talent. At that point, she was working for a collection agency. She said she was good at collections, too, but she needed to see where her art could take her.
Her husband agreed to her quitting her day job and doing art full time. She was doing all of the park shows and mall shows. She did galleries and everything she could do to get her art seen. The gallery scene was tough. She did it for quite a few years.
She then went through a divorce and had to go back to being a collector. She did that until she retired in her 50s.
Before her divorce, she had another interesting event take place in her life. Her husband at the time and herself acquired a bobcat as a pet. She belonged to an exotic cat club and thought that when the children were older, they would one day get an exotic cat.
One day she got a call and a lady that she knew had a friend that had found a sick bobcat that had been shot in its hind leg. At first, she was hesitant because her children were still little. Wilson gave in and went out to the bobcat. It had a collar on but no tags, so it had to be a pet. The bobcat was about the size of a medium dog.
Her husband walked into the room with a pet carrier and all Wilson saw were luminous gold eyes looking back at her. She said that it wasn’t going to work. She was afraid that the animal might have something like rabies.
She took the cat into her art room and let it out of the carrier. The cat immediately started rubbing against their legs like it was domesticated. The cat won their hearts and was good with the kids. Wilson was certain it had to have been raised with children, prior.
They took her to the vet and then they put an ad in the paper. Nobody ever responded. They named it Precious and it became a part of the family and helped raise the children. Wilson’s first book is about her bobcat but also covers her travels to Africa.
Dunn said that the first time he met the bobcat, he didn’t know what to expect. The cat walked over and immediately curled up to sleep on his legs. He didn’t get to meet it again because it passed shortly after their first meeting.
unn takes to football
Wilson’s second book is about Dunn and his journey to the National Football League, where he played with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Dunn grew up in a large, poor family in a black community. Since he didn’t come from money, he had to work hard and receive scholarships to achieve his dream of football.
“Things that are most precious in life are things that are found, not things that are bought,” said Dunn.
He had his brother who was three years older and three friends who lived in the same area. They were all athletic and good kids. The were always hanging out together, playing sports, going swimming and going to the local recreation center. They had to walk at least 10 miles to get to their destination, but it wasn’t a big deal because they were having fun. This was in San Diego, Calif.
At 12 years old, he knew that he wanted to be a football player. He had got to see the Kansas City Chiefs play in his hometown stadium against the Chargers. It only took the sight of the players running through the tunnel in their red and white uniforms to spark his interest. He went to church and prayed to God to help him help himself to get him to where he wanted to be.
He was a wide receiver in high school and had received national recognition. He practiced hard and studied hard. He was always one of the best on his football team. He made the high school all-star team and represented the city of San Diego.
When high school was over, he decided to go to junior college. As a freshman, he could play nine to 10 games. If he had gone to a four-year college, he wouldn’t have gotten as much game time as a freshman. His school was also across the street, so it was familiar.
He had 18 colleges in California alone that wanted him. He had colleges and teams that he loved, but this was 1970. At the time it, was unheard of to have black players on teams in places like Texas or one of his favorites, Notre Dame.
“Time wasn’t ready yet. Colleges hadn’t gotten there yet,” said Dunn.
He had to use other things to choose the school that he went to. He looked at things like scholastic programs. He wanted to go to a school that would benefit his particular position as a receiver. He had to pick a school with a popular team, so he could be discovered.
He was the leading receiver as a freshman at San Francisco State. That was unheard of and got him a lot of pats on the back.
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” said Dunn.
After his freshman year, he was the top receiver and made the local papers. The next year, he repeated everything that he had accomplished.
“They knew that I was probably going to go pro,” said Dunn.
His coach wanted him to keep focus on the present and not the future. He kept the recruiters off Dunn’s back. He had 48 scholarships offered to him.
The Cincinnati Bengals drafted him in 1970. He played for them for three years without getting hurt. More details on his journey can be found in the Wilson’s book.