Though he has been a country record producer, a door-to-door salesman, a civil rights reporter, and a Madison Avenue consultant, Joe Wilson is best known for his work as the Executive Director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA), the oldest organization in the nation devoted to the presentation of folk arts. As director of the NCTA, he has had a profound influence on folk and traditional arts programming in this country.
He has also influenced the shaping of national institutions such as the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, the National Park Service, the Arts America program of the United States Information Agency (now in the Department of State), the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His most significant accomplishments, however, are the many ways in which he has put his passion and commitment to traditional artists into practice.
He has organized or given programming direction to nearly 40 folk festivals, including the National Folk Festival that is produced annually by NCTA. He has organized over 20 national tours by musicians, dancers, and storytellers. He has produced seven international tours and 53 sound recordings. In addition, he has co-written with Lee Udall the book Folk Festivals: A Handbook for Organization and Management.
His resume wryly closes with the statement, "Joe Wilson was reared in the Blue Ridge Mountains at Trade, Tennessee's easternmost and oldest community. He has no graduate degrees and is not listed in the Who's Who of anywhere." In spite of that, his work and his inspiring commitment to folk artists is quietly visible everywhere.