Black Bottom Digital ArchiveHistorical MapHistorical FiguresHistorical SitesOral HistoriesAboutMenu

Sunnie Wilson

Mr. Sunnie Wilson was a Detroit legend and a master of many fields.  He was an entertainer in the early stages of his life, a music promoter, and most notably an entrepreneur.  Following the establishment of his ice cream parlour in 1931, he established the Detroit Golden Gloves Training Center where he met boxer and lifetime friend Joe Louis. Shortly after, Wilson and Louis opened the Brown Bomber Chicken Shack in 1937 which was active for roughly 4-5 years. In 1941, Wilson became the owner of the Forest Club, which was deemed one of the largest nightclubs in the country and a venue for notable artists of the time.  While operating as a nightclub, the space also held a “27-lane bowling alley, a meeting hall, and roller skating rink” (The Detroit Free Press, 58).  The Club was also known for hosting actor Paul Robeson at a time when Robeson was blacklisted by the government and other establishments during the Red Scare.  Following the closing of the club in 1951, Wilson went on to own other businesses, including the Mark Twain Hotel.  As someone who deemed “friendship more important than money” (Detroit Free Press, 3) his philanthropy and role in servicing those in need coined him one of the mayors of Paradise Valley.  Wilson was also a recipient of various awards including the Spirit of Detroit Award in 1987 and the Urban League Distinguished Warrior Award in 1992. 



”High Profile Sunnie Wilson: Entertainer keeps a song in his Heart.” Detroit Free Press, August 23, 1987, p. 3.

Pauline Lubens. “Shining Among the Stars.” Detroit Free Press, February 28, 1997, p. 58.

Patty LaNoue Sterns. “Detroit Pays Tribute to One of its Legends.” Detroit Free Press, March 24, 1999, p. 61.

View more historical figures