Charles Malcolm Wilson (February 26, 1914 – March 13, 2000) was the 50th Governor of New York from December 18, 1973 to December 31, 1974. He was a member of the New York State Assembly from 1939 to 1958. He also served in the Navy during World War II. In 1958, he was elected Lieutenant Governor of New York on the gubernatorial ticket with Nelson Rockefeller, and when they won, he served as lieutenant governor until succeeding to the governorship after Rockefeller resigned. Wilson lost the 1974 gubernatorial election to Hugh Carey.
In 1994, the Tappan Zee Bridge was renamed in Wilson's honor. There is also a park in Yonkers, New York named for him.
Wilson was born in New York City into a Roman Catholic family of Irish and Scottish extraction. He had three siblings. His father, Charles H. Wilson, was a patent attorney who unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the State Assembly in 1912. His mother, Agnes, was a Republican activist and local party leader. The family moved to Yonkers, New York when Wilson was eight, and Wilson continued to reside there after he began his career.
Education and professional career
After graduating from Fordham Preparatory School in 1929 at only 15 years of age, Wilson earned a bachelor's degree from Fordham University in 1933 at age 19 and a law degree from Fordham University School of Law in 1936 at age 22. Wilson was admitted to the bar and joined the White Plains, New York firm that would eventually become known as Kent, Hazzard, Jaeger, Greer, Wilson, and Fay. Wilson practiced law at this firm for his entire career, and was made a partner in 1946.
At age 24, just two years after graduating from Fordham Law, Wilson was elected to the New York State Assembly where he represented the 5th district of Westchester County from 1939 to 1945, and after re-districting the 1st district from 1945 to 1959. He sat in the 162nd, 163rd, 164th, 165th, 166th, 167th, 168th, 169th, 170th and 171st New York State Legislatures. During his tenure as a legislator, Wilson sponsored a large number of bills that became law. Among his bills that came into law was the Wilson Pakula Act which prevented candidates from running in a party primary if they were not members of that party.
His political and legal careers were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. Wilson joined the United States Navy in 1943 and served on an ammunition ship, traveling to Europe several times. He was discharged in 1945 as a Lieutenant, Junior Grade. While he was at war, Wilson won re-election to the Assembly in absentia.
Rockefeller's right-hand man
In 1958, Wilson decided to support Rockefeller for Governor despite the fact that the latter was a political novice, and had never run for office before. Wilson took pains to introduce Rockefeller to many politically powerful people in the state. They would frequently travel in Wilson's personal car, in order to play down the candidate's wealth.
The Rockefeller-Wilson ticket defeated the incumbent Democrat W. Averell Harriman. After Wilson's election as Lieutenant Governor, he would go on to serve in that position for nearly 15 years. The Rockefeller-Wilson ticket was re-elected in 1962, 1966 and 1970. Throughout his tenure, he tended to agree with Rockefeller's liberal republicanism, with the notable exception of abortion, the legalization of which Wilson opposed. Wilson defined himself as "an economic conservative and a human-rights liberal". During this time, another liberal Republican, Louis Lefkowitz, served as Attorney General. While governor, Malcolm Wilson greatly improved passenger rail service in New York State. Under his leadership, N.Y.C. -Albany-Montréal service and direct N.Y.C.-Buffalo-Detroit was revived; the latter service dropped under Democratic leadership as these are/were state supported passenger trains.
Governor of New York
In December 1973, when Rockefeller resigned as governor to run the Commission on Critical Choices for Americans, Wilson assumed the governorship for the remaining year of Rockefeller's term and ran for election in 1974 to a full-term. The period was a difficult one for the nation, both in terms of economic and foreign policy, and for the Republican Party, which was weakened by the Watergate scandal. Democrats swept to power across the nation in the 1974 general election, with Wilson losing the governor's mansion to Hugh Carey, who won with 58% of the vote.
Later life and death
After losing the election, Wilson returned to his legal practice and served as Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Manhattan Bank for Savings from 1977 until 1986.
His wife Katherine (née McCloskey) died in 1980. In 1991 Wilson's health deteriorated, and he retired to New Rochelle, New York.
When Malcolm Wilson died in 2000, his memorial service was held at Holy Family Church in New Rochelle. He is interred at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.
Wilson had two daughters, Katharine, an attorney, and Anne; and six grandsons. Wilson was a Catholic and attended the St. Denis Catholic Church in Yonkers, NY.