Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson

President & CEO

This photo shows a head and shoulders view of Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson.

Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson is president and CEO of Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) and the CDF Action Council. Founded in 1973, CDF builds community so young people grow up with dignity, hope, and joy. Children’s Defense Fund envisions a nation where marginalized children flourish, leaders prioritize their well-being, and communities wield the power to ensure they thrive. It pursues this vision through policy advocacy, community organizing, and a network of CDF Freedom Schools in 100 U.S. cities and thirty states.

Distinguished for activism in philanthropy, faith, and community for child well-being and racial justice, Dr. Wilson’s public ministry includes service to vital national institutions. He chairs the board for Duke University’s Divinity School, is a trustee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, and a director for the Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE) and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), both of which he previously served as board chair.

Since joining CDF in 2020, Wilson has strengthened the organization’s strategy and finances while managing its first leadership transition. Upon arrival, he re-activated CDF Action Council as a sister organization for grassroots legislative education, lobbying, and public accountability. In 2021, Wilson established a dedicated Leadership Development and Organizing department focused on base building with key constituencies. In 2022, this team relaunched CDF’s Black Student Leadership Network to train students in community organizing and policy analysis and initiated capacity-building cohorts for faith communities to advocate for children’s policy. To infuse public policy with youth voice, in 2023 he merged the American Youth Policy Forum into CDF and published a 2030 public policy agenda informed by listening sessions and focus groups within CDF Freedom Schools®.  

Dr. Starsky Wilson

Check out Dr. Wilson’s sermons and speeches here

Explore themes of justice, love, and understanding as Dr. Wilson shares powerful messages and insight. Each sermon and speech contributes to a collective understanding of the well-being of every child and youth. Join us in reflecting on these impactful teachings and charting a course for a future rooted in compassion and inclusivity.

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From 2011 through 2020, Rev. Wilson was president and CEO of Deaconess Foundation, a faith-based philanthropy for child well-being and racial justice in St. Louis. From 2008 through 2018, Dr. Wilson also pastored Saint John’s Church (The Beloved Community), a multiracial congregation in the city. Under his leadership, the foundation constructed and established the Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being, a community action tank engaging thousands of citizens annually.

After the police killing of Michael Brown, Jr., the church hosted the #BlackLivesMatter Freedom Ride to Ferguson and other mobilizations. Wilson was appointed co-chair of the Ferguson Commission, which released the ‘Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity’ Report, calling for sweeping changes in policing, the courts, child well-being and economic mobility in 2015.

Dr. Wilson earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Xavier University of Louisiana, Master of Divinity from Eden Theological Seminary, and the Doctor of Ministry from Duke University. A member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Starsky is married to Dr. LaToya Smith Wilson, a dentist and child advocate. They are raising four children.

For his impact through service, Rev. Wilson has received several significant honors. These include: three honorary doctorates, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) 2021 National Achievement and Outstanding Leadership Award, designation as the 2020 ABFE (Association of Black Foundation Executives) James Joseph Lecturer, 2017 induction into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers of MLK International Chapel at Morehouse College, the 2015 Saint Louis Award, St. Louis American 2015 Person of the Year, Saint Louis Children’s Hospital 2013 Community Advocate of the Year, 2023 Ubuntu Award for Excellence in Prophetic Ministry from St. Paul Community Baptist Church (NY), and the Incarnate Word Foundation 2020 Leadership Award.

Follow Dr. Wilson’s activism, philanthropy, and ministry at @RevDrStarsky and @ChildDefender.