Clyde Wilson … the name has a special meaning for the citizens of Houston, Texas. Many remember him fondly … and for many, many others, the name strikes fear in their hearts. Clyde Wilson, a very colorful and famous private investigator, spent more than 30 years making history and solving some of Houston’s toughest cases.
Clyde Wilson began to make a name for himself early in life. Born in Houston in 1923, he moved to Austin as a child after his father passed away. He only reached the ninth grade, was drafted into the military in the early 1940s, and fought in World War II. Exhibiting his strength of character even then, Wilson received two Purple Hearts for his heroic efforts. In 1942, he met his wife, Agnes, and they were married in early 1943. Together they had 7 children.
Wilson opened his first office as a private investigator in Houston in 1957. Working from a makeshift office in a funeral home and using an overturned coffin as a desk, he began his illustrious career exposing corruption within the police and justice departments of the “better cities.” by Lufkin. . Wilson investigated and uncovered evidence that payments were being accepted, resulting in the arrest of the chief, the assistant chief, and a local judge. A year later, he discovered similar activities taking place in Polk County, resulting in a grand jury indictment against the county judge and all 4 county commissioners.
The personality Wilson created for himself, “a character shaped by westerns, television detectives, and children’s adventure stories” served him well. Preferring cowboy boots and jeans, Wilson never pretended to be something he wasn’t. His world was based on friendships (with friends in high places and low places) and helping those friends when they needed help, as much as it was based on fear. Once upon a time, his business card allegedly read, “Dirt Can’t Hide From Electrified Clyde” and that turned out to be true. In the 1960s, the trustees of the University of Houston suspected that their school was being corrupted by homosexuals and radical students, so they hired Wilson to search the land. He found it. In the 1970s, Wilson was hired by Tenneco’s chief of security to find and rescue 5 of the company’s employees kidnapped in Ethiopia. Check. Ash Robinson wanted to find the “dirt” of his son-in-law, John Hill, and Wilson was his man. (This was the case that ended with the murder of Houston society matron Joan Robinson Hill, and was later immortalized in the Thompsons book Blood and money.)
They weren’t always roses for Clyde Wilson. It has been said that he sometimes went too far, that he sometimes played by his own rules and sometimes made them up as he went along. In 1973, Wilson had his own connection to the other side of the law when he was charged in Federal Court with wiretapping six Hunt Oil Company employees while working undercover for the Dallas oil tankers Nelson and Herbert Hunt. He was declared “No Contest” and was given a two-year suspended sentence. In 1977, President Ford granted Wilson a formal clemency on his last day in office. Talk about friends in high places …
Although Wilson sometimes broke the rules, he did it with a pure and good heart, and he did it to catch his bad guy. In the early 1980s, after boasting that he could solve the Hermann Estate case in one day, “he ambushed the prime suspect at a midday meeting at the Warwick Hotel and later obtained a bluffing confession about the scope of your investigation”. When the Hermann Estates board of directors asked Wilson to find out who was stealing money from them, he did. When he tracked corruption and fraud to the top, some board members told him to back off. Instead, he took the case to the district attorney and had those members investigated and exposed. A few years later, the mismanagement of the Moody Foundation’s funds made headlines, and Wilson discovered that someone was stealing from the inside. Shern Moody Jr. was determined to be the guilty party and Wilson turned him over for investigation by Galveston and Houston prosecutors, as well as state and US attorneys general. “One of Wilson’s true gifts was his ability to track information and create a profile on the issue he was investigating,” said Houston attorney Richard “Racehorse” Haynes.
A few years after a high-profile murder case in Houston cooled down, Wilson used a private investigator to go undercover and get the suspect to confess. One of the most publicized cases of Clyde Wilson was gained by tracking down and befriending a maid in a hotel: the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. Wilson’s probing skills found Marla Maples’ love nest, proving that even Donald Trump was not immune to Wilson and his tracking abilities.
These are just a few of Clyde Wilson’s moments as Houston’s finest and most public private detective, but with 7 children and 25 grandchildren, you can bet he was both a family man and a colorful investigator. More than one son has followed in his footsteps and has traveled the same path for his profession. We can all be sure that Clyde passed on his IP gifts, talents, and I’m willing to stake some of Houston’s best-kept secrets on his successor, his youngest son, Tim Wilson, who now runs the investigative agency and has even been expanded with offices in all countries and concerns abroad.