"[Gaylon Lawrence Sr.] said there's nobody in this world that is going to take care of what you're entrusting us to take care of," Wilson said. I have never seen a Delta town become resurrected like that town has." A big part of that resurrection has been the work of town planner John Faulkner, who Lawrence brought in to oversee the revitalization.
drained the swamps, cleared the stumps and pivoted to agriculture on an epic scale, the town of Wilson soon became the hub of a spoked wheel of activity and influence, perched at the center of over 60 square miles of rich farmland in Mississippi County. was the biggest cotton producer in the whole South.
Production on that scale required an army of workers — reportedly over 11,000 at one point — including farm hands, school teachers, doctors, dentists, carpenters, mechanics, electricians and the employees of a fully staffed veterinary clinic to care for the thousands of huge plow mules required to work the land in the days before mechanized agriculture.
reportedly sold to The Lawrence Group for $110 million — he was also mindful about the fate of the town.
The Lawrence family, he said, vowed that they would look after Wilson.
at the private Ensworth School in Nashville, Tenn., Faulkner has had a hand in shaping nearly everything that has happened in Wilson since 2012, from crafting the vision for The Delta School to picking the green paint for the town's trim.
"I am a visual arts person, so I've always been a project-related kind of guy," he said.
Near the center of town, an organic garden pushed into the damp April daylight, overseen by a young, never-slowing idealist and her staff, the operation spinning out from a new classroom/concert space/demonstration kitchen meant to resemble a tin barn, but which is decidedly not a tin barn.
On the outskirts of town, in a restored mansion that might remind one of Harry Potter's alma mater inside and out, 45 kids attended the private Delta School, where a lesson on photosynthesis might be taught with a trip to the garden and physics might be demonstrated by building a go-kart, under the watchful eye of a brilliant, Ivy League-educated teacher whose groundbreaking ideas once landed her on the bestseller list.
Since 2010, The Lawrence Group, a company founded by his late father, Gaylon Lawrence Sr., has owned all the farmland around Wilson for miles in every direction, along with 90 percent of the commercial real estate in town.