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Ernest L. Wilkinson

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Title: Ernest L. Wilkinson  
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Subject: BYU Division of Continuing Education, List of Brigham Young University residence halls, BYU College of Nursing, BYU College of Health and Human Performance, Ernest L. Wilkinson Student Center
Collection: 1899 Births, 1978 Deaths, American Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Brigham Young University Alumni, Commissioners of Church Education (Lds Church), George Washington University Alumni, George Washington University Law School Alumni, Harvard Law School Alumni, Legal Educators, People from Ogden, Utah, Presidents of Brigham Young University, Rutgers University Faculty, Utah Lawyers, Utah Republicans, Weber State University Alumni
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Ernest L. Wilkinson

Ernest L. Wilkinson
Wilkinson pictured in The Banyan 1952, BYU yearbook
President of Brigham Young University
In office
February 1951 – July 1971[1]
Preceded by Howard S. McDonald
Succeeded by Dallin H. Oaks
Personal details
Born (1899-05-04)May 4, 1899
Ogden, Utah
Died April 6, 1978(1978-04-06) (aged 78)
Salt Lake City, Utah
Alma mater George Washington University

Ernest Leroy Wilkinson (May 4, 1899 – April 6, 1978) was an American academic administrator and prominent figure in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). He was president of Brigham Young University (BYU) from 1951 to 1971 and also oversaw the entire LDS Church Educational System. Prior to this, Wilkinson was a lawyer in Washington, D.C. and New York.


  • Biography 1
  • Notes 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Wilkinson was born in Ogden, Utah. He graduated from Weber Academy in Ogden in 1917. He was then a student at Weber College, which was the same school now having expanded to offer collegiate level courses. After a year at Weber College Wilkinson became a member of the Student Army Training Core unit located at BYU.[2] After the war he became a regular student at BYU and among other things served as the editor of the weekly newspaper. He earned his bachelor of arts degree at BYU in 1921.[3]

At graduation Wilkinson began teaching at Weber College. He married Alice Valera Ludlow, a native of Spanish Fork who he had met while they were both students at BYU, in the Salt Lake Temple on 16 August 1923. The ceremony was performed by James E. Talmage.[4] Ernest and Alice would have five children. Among other subjects, Alice had studied drama at BYU, which led to T. Earl Pardoe stating she was his most talented student up to that time.[4]

A hallway in the Wilkinson Center at BYU, named after President Ernest L. Wilkinson.

Also in 1923 Wilkinson was involved with the campaign of Harvard Law School in 1927.[5][6]

While in law school Wilkinson taught high school in Washington, D.C. He also was for a time on the faculty of the New Jersey Law School.

After working for future Supreme Court chief justice Charles Evans Hughes,[5] Wilkinson served as attorney for the Ute Indian Tribes in their suit to be compensated for land never paid for by the U.S. government as part of the Treaty of 1880. In 1950 this suit was upheld by the United States Court of Claims and as a result, the Ute tribes were awarded $32 million.[7][8]

When Wilkinson came to BYU he replaced the interim administration of wards and stakes.

Wilkinson was the ninth Commissioner of Church Education of the LDS Church. During his tenure, he also bore the title "Administrator–Chancellor of the Unified Church Schools System".

In 1964, Wilkinson won the Republican Party nomination for the United States Senate, defeating Sherman P. Lloyd. Wilkinson lost in the general election to incumbent Senator Frank Moss.

On April 21, 1966, Wilkinson gave an address to the student body of BYU, entitled "The Changing Nature of American Government from a Constitutional Republic to a Welfare State." This was published in booklet form by Deseret Book Company.


  1. ^ Bergera & Priddis 1985
  2. ^ Ernest L. Wilkinson, ed., Brigham Young University: The First 100 years (Provo: BYU Press, 1975) Vol. 2, p. 510-511
  3. ^ Wilkinson. BYU 1st 100, Vol. 2, p. 514
  4. ^ a b Wilkinson. BYU 1st 100. Vol. 2, p. 515
  5. ^ a b Richard E. Bennett. "Ernest L. Wilkinson" in Arnold K. Garr, et al, eds., Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000) p. 1344-1346
  6. ^ Fall 1999BYU Magazine
  7. ^ Wilson Rockwell (1956). The Utes, a Forgotten People, p. 252
  8. ^ The case was "Confederated Bands of Ute Indians v. United States, 117 Ct.Cl. 433 (1950)". "402 US 159 United States v. Southern Ute Tribe or Band of Indians". Open Jurist. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  9. ^ Bennett, Richard E. "Brigham Young University" in Arnold K. Garr, et. al, eds., Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000) p. 136


  • Bergera, Gary James; Priddis, Ronald (1985), "Chapter 1: Growth & Development", Brigham Young University: A House of Faith, Salt Lake City:  .
  • Bergera, Gary James (Summer 1993), "A Strange Phenomena: Ernest L. Wilkinson, the LDS Church, and Utah Politics",  .
  • Bergera, Gary James (Fall 1993), A Sad and Expensive Experience': Ernest L. Wilkinson's 1964 Bid for the U.S. Senate"'", Utah Historical Quarterly 61 (4): 304–24 .
  • Bergera, Gary James (Spring 1996), "Ernest L. Wilkinson and the Office of Church Commissioner of Education",  .
  • Bergera, Gary James (July 1997), "Wilkinson the Man",  .
  • Bergera, Gary James (Fall 1997), "Ernest L. Wilkinson's Appointment as Seventh President of Brigham Young University",  .
  • Bergera, Gary James (Fall 1997), "Building Wilkinson's University",  .
  • Blake, Jeff D. (Spring 1995), "Ernest L. Wilkinson and the 1966 BYU Spy Ring: A Response to D. Michael Quinn",  .
  • Deem, Woodruff J.; Bird, Glenn V. (1982), Ernest L. Wilkinson—Indian Advocate and University President, Provo, Utah: Alice L. Wilkinson .
  • Embry, Jessie L. (1994), "Ernest L. Wilkinson", in Allan Kent Powell, Utah History Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City:  .
  • Friel, Danae (Fall 1999), "Ernest L. Wilkinson: University Builder", BYU Magazine 53: 70–72 .
  • Hemming, Val G. (Fall 2000), "Ricks College: The Struggle for Permanency and Place, 1954-60",  .
  • Waterman, Bryan (Winter 1998), "Ernest Wilkinson and the Transformation of BYU's Honor Code, 1965-71",  .
  • Wilkinson, Ernest L.; Skousen, W. Cleon (1976), Brigham Young University: A School of Destiny, Provo, Utah:  .

External links

  • Wilkinson's presidential profile listed at BYU
  • Wilkinson resources available through BYU
  • Ernest L. Wilkinson Papers at BYU
Academic offices
Preceded by
Howard S. McDonald
President of Brigham Young University
February 1951 – July 1971
Succeeded by
Dallin H. Oaks
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