M.E. Wilson and Gasparilla: Ye Royal Relationship
M.E. Wilson Company has a deep, historic connection to the city of Tampa. As a member of a select group of private companies with a 100 year history, our founders are deeply embedded in the fabric and culture of the city. In fact, Malcolm Eugene Wilson, the original founder of M.E. Wilson Company, sought Ms. Grace Freeman’s hand in marriage soon after arriving in Tampa. Grace and her parents, Douglas E. and Lillie Freeman, were prominent members of Tampa’s social scene. Perhaps this is best represented by Grace’s election as the Queen of Gasparilla in 1917.
The Coronation Ball of 1917 was held at the Tampa Bay Casino on February 8th. In the midst of a dance floor bordered by a walkway of palms, Grace Freeman (the future Mrs. M. Eugene Wilson) joined Wallace O. Stovall on the throne. The race for the queen’s crown was tight. In fact it was so close that Grace, doubting her chances, chose to wear comfortable shoes to the Ball, instead carrying the pair that matched her flesh-colored gown at her side. Much to her surprise, Lord Chamberlain Gillet announced Ms. Freeman as Queen. Shocked by the announcement, forgot to change her shoes before accepting the crown, causing her to spend the rest of the night worrying about not wearing the pair that matched her dress.
Ms. Freeman sat as role of Queen for three years due to the United States’ entering of World War I. The South Florida Fair and Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla’s activities would open again in 1920, appointing a new king and queen. During this hiatus, Queen XI Grace Freeman had become Mrs. M. Eugene Wilson. Grace would help to create the M.E. Wilson Company. April 15th of 1920, the Tampa Tribune carried an ad announcing the creation and opening of the M.E. Wilson & Co. Insurance Agency. The agency’s first client came by way of the lovely Mrs. M.E. Wilson when a street car ride fated her meeting of then head of Tampa Electric (TECO) Frank Gannon.
A casual mention of her husband’s newly started insurance agency was met with Gannon’s curiosity. Gannon and Tampa Electric needed an insurance agent. This began a decades-long relationship between M.E. Wilson and TECO.
The magnificent Grace Wilson was essential to the M.E. Wilson Company’s foundation. She is deeply ingrained in its fabric, as she is in the city of Tampa’s and Gasparilla. On this 100th anniversary of Queen XI Grace Freeman (Mrs. M. Eugene Wilson)’s coronation, we at M.E. Wilson wish to extend our congratulations to Ye Royal Court of 2017.