SERVING SOUTHWEST ARKANSAS FOR 112+YEARS!
The Wilsons have owned and operated our bottling company for 5 generations. The entire extended family has been involved in the business in some capacity and the plant has been an integral part of family life throughout the generations.
The year of 1896 saw the birth of Nashville's third oldest industry, the Nashville Bottling Company. Started by J.H. Moore, the Nashville Bottling Company ownership later passed to Hill Brothers Wholesale Grocery. Hence Wilder, an employee, began bottling soda pop, deriving its name from the spring stopper bottle.
Our founders, W.W. Wilson and his son Forrest Wilson bought the grocery store and bottling works on Main Street from Hence Wilder, who continued to bottle for them. On January 1, 1911, W.W. and Forrest Wilson obtained a contract to bottle Coca-Cola, a drink developed in 1886 by a pharmacist and wholesale-retail druggist in Atlanta, GA. This kick-started our operation and as they say "the rest is history."
In 1911, the same year as our founding, Coca-Cola received a registered trademark. At that time in our bottling operation, all machinery was hand operated. Joe Wilson, son of W.W. Wilson, and Hence Wilder jointly achieved the first bottle of Coca-Cola produced in Nashville. The first accurate sales records show 315 cases sold in the peak month of August 1914. The first bottles were brown, but in 1915 a patent was secured for a green bottle that would be universally recognized.
Except for hard times during World War I and the early Depression years, the company's progress was steadily upward. By 1938, the company had reached a gratifying high, bottling drinks such as Nu-Grape, Orange, Lemon Crush, Hence Wilder's own secret formula Hot-Shot, and of course Coca-Cola. Some interesting things had happened during those years. In 1920, it was ruled that "Coke" when used to apply to a beverage meant Coca-Cola and nothing else.
In 1921, the company expanded and moved to its second location in Nashville, a building on the site of what was Nu-Way Cleaners on Sypert Street. In 1922, Fred Murphy became an employee, and two years later, he became foreman, and our operations were expanded to DeQueen, AR. In 1926, Nashville Coca-Cola Bottling Company was rated the only perfect plant in the state. Grading was on quality of products, delivery equipment, and service. After our founder W.W. Wilson died in 1932, Forrest, Mrs. W.W. Wilson, Walker Wilson, and Joe Wilson took over ownership of the operation of the Wilson Corporation. With Forrest leading the way, the team and operations continued to expand in the 1930s.
In 1943, Ramon Wilson, Forrest Wilson's youngest son and grandson of W. W. Wilson, acquired stock in the corporation and his full time employment began. In 1944, Ramon Wilson was inducted into the United States Marines, participated in combat at Iwo Jima. That year Roger Amonette joined the company to manage the Wilson Farm and work at the plant. In 1946, Alger Harrison joined the company and was employed for more than 50 years as lead salesman and later as production manager. In 1948, a new bottling machine producing 63 bottles per minute was installed.
In 1953, the first price increase in Coca-Cola history occurred. Coke went from 5 cents to 6 cents a bottle. In that year, the Mena Coca-Cola Bottling Company was purchased, adding Polk, Scott, and Montgomery counties to Sevier, Hempstead, Pike, Howard, and Little River Counties and its exclusive Coca-Cola franchise territory. In 1955, Ramon Wilson became sales manager. In 1957, Herschell Vaughan was employed and would later be sales manager for 25 years. In 1958, the 10-ounce bottle with an applied white label was introduced on the contour bottle. This was the first time Coca-Cola had been sold in any package other than a six ounce bottle which later became a 6.5 ounce bottle.
In 1965, Tom Sanford joined the company and later became sales manager until his death in 1996. Ronnie C. Howard joined the company in 1967 and served as office manager for 34 years and retired in 2001. Jacky Robinson was employed in July 1976 and succeeded Tom Sanford as sales manager. James Jamison joined the company in 1980 as quality control manager and in 1984 became production manager and today serves as plant manager.
By 1980, Nashville, Coca-Cola Bottling Company's per capita had reached 300 bottles a year in the 8 counties. In February of 1981, with the aid of Act 9 municipal bonds, Nashville Coca-Cola Bottling company moved into its new $2 million dollar production facility at its present location of 1301 South Fourth Street. By 1985, plant sales had reached an all time high of 650,000 cases.
On January 1, 1988, Kenneth R. Wilson, great-grandson of W.W. Wilson, was elected President and became the 4th generation to run the Wilson family owned business. On April 18, 1988, in Atlanta, Kenneth R. Wilson, with negotiator Marion Glover, signed a contract; acquiring the Dr Pepper franchise rights for most of its Coca-Cola territory. In 1999, Nashville Coca-Cola Bottling Company became the highest per capita bottler in the Dr Pepper system, having increased its volume 400 percent since purchasing the Dr Pepper brand 9 years earlier. This was an honor that the plant continued to hold until 2005.
In 2003, we ended the bottling side of our business to focus our attention solely on distribution.
We celebrated a huge milestone with our 100th year of bottling and distributing Coca-Cola in 2011. Our Chairman Ramon F. Wilson died shortly thereafter on August 28, 2012, having served the company for over 69 years. Kenneth R. Wilson succeeded his father as Chairman upon his death.
In 2022, Jacky Robinson retired with over 46 years of service. Walt Overton, who joined the company in 2008, succeeded Jacky as the current sales manager. Cindy Riggs joined the company in 2009 and is our current office manager. The latest addition to the team is Bill Moorer who joined the company in 2022 as our CFO.
The company continues to be owned and operated by the Wilson family with Joseph Wilson, youngest son of Kenneth Wilson, joining the company in 2017 becoming the 5th generation involved in operation.
We look forward to seeing what the future holds for this small family owned business with such a rich history.
In 1911 on South Main St was the company's first location called the Wilson & Galloway Grocery Store.
William Walker Wilson was born in Talladega, Alabama Feb. 14th, 1859. He was a son of Abel Fletcher (Abe) Wilson and Mary Phillips, natives of Jasper County, Georgia and Alabama respectively. They migrated overland on Nov. 2, 1871, by oxen-drawn wagon train from Talladega, AL., arriving at Rock Creek in Pike County, Arkansas on December 15th, 1871.
W.W. Wilson received a good English education, having attended the Academy at Murfreesboro and the Arkansas Industrial University at Fayetteville, AR. He was deputy sheriff of Pike County for five years. Afterward he was engaged in teaching. W.W. Wilson later moved from Pike County to Clark County were he dealt with real estate and taught school. Around 1900 he moved to Nashville, AR. He was very instrumental in paving the road from Nashville to Murfreesboro. W.W. Wilson was also interested in railroads coming through Nashville and worked hard on these projects.
W.W. Wilson and Laura Fletcher Biggs were married December 16th, 1885. They had three children; Joseph Biggs Wilson, Forrest William Wilson, and James Walker Wilson.
W.W. was engaged in the mercantile business in Nashville under the name of Wilson and Galloway at the time he was granted a contract to bottle Coca-Cola in 1911.
W.W. Wilson passed on September 7, 1932.
If one had been asked to name a few of the leaders in the business and civic life of Nashville, Forrest Wilson would have been very near the top of the list. He was a man whose real interest in his community and in the people who made it up, made him one of the most popular and respected men in a town of leaders. For nearly 68 years this descendant of prominent Pike County families made Nashville his home where he owned and managed the Coca-Cola Bottling Company.
Forrest Wilson was born in Pike County on 7-16-1889, one of three sons of W.W. and Laura (Biggs) Wilson. He attended Nashville High School. Later attended Draughon's Business College in Little Rock, AR. When he graduated from college he joined his father in management of the Coca-Cola Plant in Nashville, AR.
He was a charter member and director in the Federal Savings & Loan Association, and was Secretary of the Howard County Livestock Sales and Fair Association. He had farm lands in Howard and Miller county and orchards in Howard County. For 14 years he was president of the First National Bank in Nashville. He served in World War I as Quartermaster Sergeant, and at the time the war ended, he was in the Officers Training Corps. He was a commander of the American Legion. At the time of his death, he was the only continuous service charter member of the Nashville Rotary Club, for which he served two terms as president.
He was interested in every phase of community life, and no one was a more active and generous contributor to its growth. He was a member of the Nashville Industrial Committee and worked toward bring industry to Nashville. He gave the land for the Wilson Baseball Park, which is named after him, and helped build the stands. He served two terms as president of the Chamber of Commerce and was a member of the Board of Stewards of the First United Methodist Church, of which he and his wife were active members. He was instrumental in originating the Howard County Peach Festival, an annual celebration held in Nashville. He was the first General Chairman. He was a member of the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages, and of the Arkansas Bottlers Association, the latter of which he was a past president.
Mr. Wilson like to fish and hunt, and his particular hobbies were deep sea fishing and traveling.
In 1920 Forrest Wilson married Irene Ammonette. The Wilson's had two sons; both of whom served overseas in World War II. The elder son, Dr. Ralph C. Wilson was a radiologist in Oklahoma City. The younger son, Ramon F. Wilson succeeded his father as Chairman of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Nashville.
Ramon Forrest Wilson was born July 5th, 1923, in Nashville, to Forrest Wilson and Irene Amonette Wilson. He received his education attending Nashville High School and Henderson State Teachers College.
Entering in the Marine Corps in March 1944, he received boot training at San Diego, CA. and advanced training at Oceanside. He was trained in infantry and was transferred to artillery where he qualified as a rifleman. After one year's service in the United States, he was attached to the Fifth Marine Division on Nov. 19, 1944. On Dec. 25, 1944, the Fifth Marine Division boarded a ship for the Pacific theater, and after 45 days at sea, with a brief stop in Hawaii, his company landed on Iwo Jima, around 3:30 P.M. on D-Day. For action at Iwo Jima and for meritorious service he was awarded the American Defense and Asiatic Pacific Ribbons, and the Presidential Unit Citation. After serving six months overseas, he was honorably discharged at Mare Island Navy Yard in California on August 30th, 1945.
After he was discharged, he returned to Nashville where he joined his father in the bottling industry, and soon began to buy stock in the family industry. In 1962 as plant manager, he helped steer the company through a major building program.
At the death of his father, Forrest Wilson, in 1967, he and his family acquired the remaining stock in the Nashville Coca-Cola Bottling Company. In 1981 he helped steer the company through another major building program.
Mr. Wilson was the president of the Wilson Corporation doing business as the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Nashville. He was a member of the Coca-Cola Bottlers Association, Arkansas Coca-Cola Bottlers Council, Arkansas Soft Drink Bottlers Association and National Soft Drink Association.
Mr. Wilson was a member and Paul Harris Fellow of the Nashville Rotary Club for over 67 years. He was also a member of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, life member of the Howard County Heritage Club, and a member of the West Sunset Church of Christ where is served as a deacon for over 56 years.
On June 29, 1950 Ramon Wilson married Nelda Lorene Smith. Ramon and Nelda had three children, Kenneth Ramon, David Walker and Elizabeth Suzanne Wilson.
Mrs. Wilson passed away on October 16th, 2009 and Mr. Wilson later passed on August 12th, 2012. Both very strong leaders in our community. They both were honored post humorously by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce in 2013 for the Lifetime Achievement Award for their service to their community.
Kenneth Wilson, son of Ramon Wilson and Nelda Smith Wilson, was born on December 19th, 1953, in Nashville, Arkansas. Kenneth attended public schools in Nashville and graduated with honors in 1972. He was an outstanding athlete and earned a total of 14 letters in football, basketball, track and baseball while in high school. His discus throw of 163 feet and 10 3/4 inches remained a Nashville Scrapper record for 29 years. He graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1977 with a business degree. While attending the university, he was a member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity.
In the summer of 1966 at the age of 12, young Kenneth began his career in the Nashville Coca-Cola Bottling Company, and in 1977 his full tenure began with the company. He presently is the Chairman and President of the Nashville Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company, following in the footsteps of his father, Ramon Wilson. In 1987 the company purchase the Dr Pepper franchise for most of it's Coca-Cola franchise area. In 2009 Nashville Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company became the #1 per capita Dr Pepper Bottler in the world.
Kenneth currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Arkansas Beverage Association having served as its chairman in 2005 and 2018. He is a current board member of Gulf States Canners Inc. In 1972, Kenneth was elected to the Howard County Quorum Court where he served as a JP for 10 years. He also served for 7 years on the Texarkana Airport Authority and served as it's chairman in 2007-2008..
He also served on the St. James Day School Board of Trustees from 2004-2007. He served on the Caddo Area Boy Scout Council Board from 2003-2008 and served as it's foundation chair in Howard County. Kenneth has been a member of the Nashville Rotary Club since 1977 having served as its president in 1990-1991 and a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow. He also is a dual member of the Reno, NV Rotary Club. Kenneth served as president of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce in 1980.
Kenneth assumed the role of Chairman in 2012 with the passing of his father, Ramon. His youngest son, Jospeh Wilson, joined the company in 2017 and was promoted to Vice President in 2021. He became the 5th generation Wilson to be involved in operations of the business.