John Wilkinson

We lost one of our club’s own in 2020 – long-time member John Wilkinson.

In honor of his life, Lawrence Central Rotary has a tree planted at the Rotary Arboretum which he dearly cared about and was on the arboretum committee for many years.

The following is an excerpt from his obituary:

John grew up in Cherryvale. In fact, the town practically reared him. John had a number of jobs including a large paper route along which he regularly collected cinnamon rolls and cookies. He also worked carrying luggage from one station to another until his love of talking too much caused 10 others to show up and take the work.

John had a great love for sports, especially basketball and baseball. One story stated that he won a game with a three-point shot from the far side of the centerline. He also pitched in a baseball game to Mickey Mantle (and Mickey hit one off of him)!

In 1951 it was his turn to go to KU. This was the summer of the big flood. He had a dorm scholarship but the dorm wasn’t built yet. Instead, John was put in a gym annex and then to a space located under the stadium. It was a long, muddy walk to meals and classes. The next year he got a room and a job at the Faculty Club. There he met a freshman named Marianne Anderson. They got married in 1957 and were married for 63 years.

Tree planted in Lawrence's Rotary Arboretum in John's remembrance.

After finishing his law degree, John and Marianne moved to Topeka. He became a research attorney for the Kansas Supreme Court and a law clerk to Judge George Templar. He formed the law firm Waggener, Wilkinson, and Wigglesworth. He lectured on appellate procedure at the Washburn University Law School. He owned and operated Burger King in Topeka which he was given in payment for legal work. He argued a case before the US Supreme Court. It dealt with the rights of indigent defendants. He won the case.