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Deacon Bernie Wilkins

Our Juneteenth Legend

His Story

The Late Bernie Wilkins, Founder of the Delaware Juneteenth Celebration 

Bernie graduated from Wilmington High School in 1961. After high school, he enlisted in the United States Air Force, serving his country as an Airman from 1961 to 1965. In 1966, Bernie attended Delaware State College, (now University), where he was a key player on the men’s basketball team. In 1970, he had the honor of being listed in the “Who’s Who” among students in American Colleges and Universities. He also pledged with Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. his pride and joy. After graduating, Bernie became an educator in the Wilmington Public School System for three years. He was employed by Neighborhood House as a Youth Coordinator for 25 years; and Children and Families First, servicing the Department of Corrections’ Plummer Center and the Hazel Plant Women’s Facility until his retirement.


In 1994, Bernie founded the Delaware Juneteenth Association after a trip to a conference where Juneteenth was celebrated yearly. After returning to Wilmington, he decided that it was time for all Delawareans and people across the globe to know the history of Juneteenth and the celebrations began. With the challenging work and dedication of establishing motivational community involvement, the team and Bernie worked tirelessly to establish the Delaware Juneteenth Association. 


A scholarship was created at his Alma Mater, Delaware State University. Each year deserving students in Business Administration receive assistance from the Delaware Juneteenth Association, in his honor. Most recently, Bernie was nominated for a Community Service Award from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Zeta Omega Chapter.


Bernie departed this life on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2021. A few months earlier.  He lived to see legislation signed recognizing Juneteenth as a legal holiday on July 17, 2021. He lived out his purpose and passion.

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