Grady Wilburn: The rest of the story


Courtesy of the Madera County Historical Society

Albert Wilburn (number 40) is seen here on the far right celebrating with the rest of the MHS basketball team after winning the Valley championship in 1963.

Last week, we visited the Grady Wilburn family as they moved from Texas to Madera. Young Albert Wilburn was only six years old and in the first grade. As things turned out, given the move and lost time in school, he had to repeat the first grade, but that was the last time he would ever have trouble in school. By the time he was in Ms. Huarte’s sixth grade class at James Monroe School, he was at the top of the class.


Just like almost every other sixth grader in Madera, Albert went to Thomas Jefferson Junior High and then to Madera High School. It was here that it became obvious to everyone that Albert Wilburn was destined to make Madera proud — very proud.

The pride that Madera had in Albert was expressed in the January 23 issue of The Madera Tribune. The article was entitled, “Al Wilburn Wins Election,” and went as follows:


“Albert Wilburn was elected president of the Madera Union High School student body for the spring semester in elections held Friday.


“He is the first of his race to win the top student office.


“Wilburn a senior, takes into office much experience in leadership gained not only in the field of athletics, but in academics as well.


“A straight “A” student in college preparatory work, Wilburn has been a member of the California Scholarship Federation throughout his school career, and served as its president for the past semester for the local chapter.


“He has also been president of the Future Engineers of America chapter at MUHS, Junior Class and Sophomore Class president, and served as Boys State representative in Sacramento in his junior year.


“He is also sports editor for boys for the 1963 Blue and White annual. Wilburn was chosen recently as Boy of the Month by the Madera Exchange Club.


“Currently one of the stars on the Madera Coyote basketball varsity team, Wilburn has also seen continuous action on the football field and baseball diamond. He was elected “Most Valuable Player” in football last season.


“Wilburn plans to study medicine for his career, and has been sought by several universities who have offered full scholarships.

“Off-campus, Wilburn has earned the rank of Eagle Scout for the Boy Scouts of America, and serves as Junior superintendent of the Sunday School at his church.”


After graduation from Madera High, Wilburn went to Stanford University as the recipient of the David Starr Jordan Scholarship, which benefited outstanding athletes who excelled academically. During the summers, Wilburn found work to help with expenses. Some of the time he worked with his father, who had by that time moved from farming to construction. At other times, he worked as an orderly at Dearborn Hospital where his mother was employed.


While at Stanford, he played on the football team and was team captain in his senior year. As the capstone to his collegiate career in athletics, Wilburn was named the Al Masters Student Athlete of the Year for 1966-1967.


He graduated from Stanford in 1967 with a degree in biology and was accepted for medical school at UCLA. Four years later he was serving his internship.


From 1972 to 1974, Dr. Wilburn served as a physician with the National Public Health Service. This was tantamount to serving in the military with the rank of Captain. During this time, he served in a Free Clinic in Columbus, Ohio.


Subsequent to his government service, Wilburn did his residency and received a fellowship at Martin Luther King Hospital in Los Angeles County. In 1979, he opened a private practice in the Los Angeles area.


By the mid ‘80s, Wilburn and his wife, Marilyn, decided to move to Fresno to be near his parents, who lived in Madera and were in need of frequent medical attention. He became a physician at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Fresno and remained there until his retirement in November 2010.


Today Dr. Wilburn spends a lot of time in Madera tending to a small piece of property. Somewhere on Raymond Road there is a little plot that holds some precious memories for him. It is that one acre of land that his father, Grady, purchased in 1951.


Grady Wilburn had farming in his blood, and he always kept a garden. Today, his son comes to Madera at least once a week to make sure his father’s piece of earth is still producing.


The father would be proud. Not only did he plant a garden that still produces, he has a son that is still producing. Dr. Wilburn is doing his part to fight the COVID-19 pandemic by volunteering in Fresno County.

So, all that Grady Wilburn endured to ensure that the doors of opportunity opened up for his family made a difference — an eternal difference.

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