Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, Wilson was the ninth of 19 children. Forced into the foster system after his parents separated when he was just three years old, Wilson was bounced around homes before lying about his age to join the United States Air Force at 16 years old. Known for his outgoing personality, joking, and “flipping around with the fellows,” while stationed in Guam during the Korean War, his buddies gave him the nickname “Flip.” Honorably discharged in 1954, he worked for a time as a bellhop and made extra money playing a drunken patron between regularly scheduled acts at the San Francisco Manor Plaza Hotel, which proved to be the start of his Grammy and Emmy Award-winning performing career. It wasn’t long before Wilson became a regular comedic act at the legendary Apollo Theatre in Harlem and began touring with the Playboy Clubs. His fame skyrocketed after comedian Redd Foxx dubbed him the funniest comedian at the time on The Tonight Show. Wilson’s career included appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dean Martin Show, and numerous TV specials, a week-long hosting gig on The Tonight Show, and more, but is most well-known for hosting The Flip Wilson Show. Unbeknownst to the public, Wilson was not only the first African American entertainer to head an acclaimed, Emmy-winning variety series, but also owned the series with his manager and producer. The Flip Wilson Show was the 2nd most popular series of the year when it premiered in 1970, lending to the reputation Wilson had built for himself during the 1960s as the hottest comedian on television. When the show went off-air, Wilson continued to act in television and theatrical movies, including Uptown Saturday Night, a 1976 television musical adaptation of Pinocchio, and The Drew Carey Show. Other notable appearances include Wilson’s collaboration with Gladys Knight on “Charlie& Co.” and on Queen Latifah’s show, “Living Single,” in the early 1990s. Wilson’s family has lived in Jersey City for more than a century. Commemorating Wilson’s style of always doing it “his way,” Kearney Avenue was renamed Flip Wilson Way in February 1999.