Ernest L. Wilkinson

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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. He was president of Brigham Young University 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.

Wilkinson was born in Ogden, Utah. He graduated from Weber Academy in Ogden in 1917. He was then a student at Weber College, which is now known as Weber State University. After a year at Weber College Wilkinson became a member of the Student Army Training Core unit located at BYU. 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.

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. Ernest and Alice would have five children. Among other subjects, Alice had studied drama at BYU, which lead to T. Earl Pardoe stating she was his most talented student up to that time.

Also in 1923 Wilkinson was involved with the campaign of William H. King for United States Senate. He then earned a law degree from George Washington University and a doctorate from Harvard Law School in 1927.

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

After working for future Supreme Court chief justice Charles Evans Hughes, 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.

When Wilkinson came to BYU he replaced the interim administration of Christen Jensen. Under Wilkinson's administration, BYU expanded in many ways. The number of students increased from 5,000 to 25,000. He instituted aggressive recruiting methods where faculty would accompany general authorities on visits to stake conferences and tours of missions. This changed BYU from having a student body mainly from Utah to having a student body from virtually every state in the nation. Under his administration the number of buildings on campus grew tremendously. BYU also for the first time granted Ph.D.s. Wilkinson considered the most important accomplishment of his term as president to have been the organization of student 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.

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