Getting Personal: Jack Wilkie

Getting Personal: Jack Wilkie

Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, 59-year-old JACK WILKIE, a Champaign attorney, band member and home brewer, chats with staff writer Paul Wood.

Where did you grow up and how did you get here?

Mostly Champaign-Urbana; we moved here when I was 5 when my dad got a job as an English professor at the University of Illinois.

You're a Champaign attorney, but possibly more people know you from Riders of the Golden Maize.

We have been playing around C-U and environs since 2009. Our lineup is Mark "Obu" Obuchowski, drums; Steve Boynton, bass and vocals; Chuck Dragoo, keyboard; Tom Wyatt, guitar and vocals; and me, guitar and vocals.

Where did you get the name from?

I will give our drummer, Mark Obuchowski, credit for coming up with the name (please tell the copyright lawyers it has nothing to do with that band in which Jerry Garcia played pedal steel). Originally, it was "New Riders ..." After a few years, when we were slightly worn, we decided we weren't new any more and became Riders of the Golden Maize. The golden maize is a nod to our agricultural setting here in East Central Illinois.

Where does the band play?

Numerous venues in and around C-U, including the Rose Bowl, Hubers, Bunny's, Loose Cobra and Alto Vineyards. Additionally, outdoor venues such as Friday Night Live and the Urbana Park District Neighborhood Nights series. We also are available for private events, and we have a Facebook page under Riders of the Golden Maize.

You play guitar and sing. How did you learn to play?

I was inspired to play guitar by the Beatles records my dad brought home and the church guitar bands I saw in the 1960s. I then started taking lessons for a few years, starting at the old Emerson's music store on Neil Street.

What else interests you right now?

Reading and travel and time with my family. Also advocating for immigrants' rights, with groups such as the C-U Immigration Forum and Latino Partnership.

What are your specialties as an attorney?

Immigration, criminal and traffic defense, with many Spanish-speaking clients.

Why did you chose that language and how did you learn it?

I started Spanish in seventh grade at Edison (then a junior high) school, continued in high school and a little in college.

Does it help you in immigration law?

Yes, as many of my clients are from Mexico or Central America.

What's something nobody knows about you?

Some of my clients with pronunciation issues refer to me as "Chuck Whisky." I kind of like the name!

Tell us about your family.

I am married to my lovely wife, Tammy, who works with me, and we have two grown children, Katie and Matthew, both of whom live in Champaign and are employed. Layla is our Chihuahua mix dog that thinks she is a fierce 100-pound guard dog.

Do you have any other cool hobbies?

I have been a beer home brewer for 20 years. Mark, our drummer, is my current partner in the brewing of snobby ales.

What something few people know about you?

My paternal grandfather, James "Minute" Wilkie, was in the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame for hockey.

Do you have a guilty pleasure and what is it?

Good chocolate and a fine Trappist Ale from Belgium.

What book are you reading now? What is your favorite book ever?

I am reading some travel guides for a trip we are planning later this year. Favorite book ever is really hard to answer; I read Bellow's "Herzog" last year and really enjoyed that.

Where on Earth are you dying to go?

I will start with the major capitals of Europe (my family went to Madrid two years ago, and we visited England in 1973), but I would like to see all of them and return to London and Madrid, too.

Tell me about your favorite pet.

The aforementioned Layla, super Chihuahua-Beagle.

What's your favorite sports team?

I'm not a big sports fan, but I confess to being a fair-weather Cubs fan.

What would you order for your last meal?

Pizza from Manzella's Italian Patio.

If you could be reincarnated after you die, what would you like to come back as?

Me, knowing then what I know now.

Who are your favorite musicians and why?

Beatles, Dylan, Jefferson Airplane, Bottle Rockets, Mavericks, Merle Haggard, John Hyatt, Louvin Brothers.

What's the happiest memory of your life?

Birth of my kids; wedding day. As a kid, I have very fond memories of our first trip to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, when I was 7.

Which historical figure do you admire the most and why?

Lincoln is up at the top of the list, as the greatest president, his role as a lawyer and his numerous ties to Urbana and many of the counties near C-U.

What personality trait do you most hate in other people?

Intolerance and pompousness.

Most hate in yourself?

Intolerance and pompousness.

What's your best piece of advice?

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and listen more, talk less (I am working on the latter).

What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?

Dairy Queen at Third and Green, 1974. I made more than $1 an hour but not much. Great job, one teenage boy working with four teenage girls.

What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?

I think deciding to get into immigration law in 2001 (have been in law since 1986), rather than refer clients to other lawyers. There was a new law that went into effect in early 2001 that enabled many people who otherwise would have been ineligible to apply for permanent-residency green cards.

How do you handle a stressful situation?

It's best to face up to a stressful situation sooner rather than later, as it usually is not as bad as you expected.

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