Wilkerson enlisted in the Air Force and served as a mechanic until 1971. Three years later he got the job at Piedmont. While Piedmont was jokingly called the “puddle jumper” airline, Wilkerson was proud to work as one of the first and few black pilots in the industry. He gained much attention as one of the few black men in uniform.
Wilkerson logged more than 17,000 hours as a pilot for Piedmont. He was finally able to take his family to the places he’d only seen in the National Geographic magazine as a child. In 2011, he was inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame.
Bill Wilkerson continues to give tours at the North Carolina Transportation museum and work with the Federal Aviation Administration on pilot safety issues.