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Home » Campus News Latest » Obituaries » Robert Louis Wilson ’52

Robert Louis Wilson was born in Fairfax, Iowa on December 9, 1926, and was raised in Downs, Illinois. He died of complications from Alzheimer’s, on April 23, 2022.
During World War II Robert served in the Navy, where he worked as a radar technician. After the war, he earned a BA in Sociology from Antioch College, and an MA in City Planning from UNC at Chapel Hill. He came to Knoxville with his then-wife and his children in 1970, and worked as a professor at the UT School of Planning.
Robert was prescient in advocating that food distribution/food consumption should be concerns for city planners. He found that people living in poor urban areas did not have access to healthy food, and thought that innovative city planning could help remedy this problem. In 1977 he directed a study called “Food Distribution and Consumption in Knoxville: Exploring Food-Related Local Planning Issues,” which pinpointed areas of Knoxville where food access was limited.The study proved influential, and led to the formation of the Knoxville Food Policy Council, the first such government entity in the world.Today, more than 40 years later, the study is still cited as a groundbreaking force in the field of city planning.
Later, Robert was awarded a multi-year grant by the National Science Foundation that allowed him to serve as a Public Service Science Resident. After completing the grant, he worked as an independent planning consultant until his retirement.
In 1987 he married Annette Grogan Anderson. The two had an active and happy life together, even as he overcame Burkitt Lymphoma at age 84, and then struggled with Alzheimer’s. He enjoyed photography, repairing machines, reading, hiking, and camping. Throughout his life, he retained a wide-ranging curiosity, and a sincere concern for the underserved and underrepresented in society.
Robert is predeceased by his parents Clifford and Bessie; his beloved wife Annette Grogan
Anderson; three sisters, Margaret, Betty, Mary Ann, and his two stepchildren, Sharon Lees
and Tom Anderson. He is survived by his children, Andrew Abrahams, P. Rachael Wilson and Zahava Wilson; and by his grandchildren Sophia and Naia.
On June 25, 2022 , a joint memorial service will be held for Robert and his wife Annette Grogan Anderson, who predeceased him by eighteen days. The service is at 1:00 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Knoxville.