A.P. Woodson’s business acumen left a large legacy in Marathon County and beyond. His achievements and personal generosity didn’t call attention to the man, but instead to the good works he generated with an unassuming discretion.
Aytchmonde Perrin Woodson was born on Sept. 4, 1881 in Platte City, Missouri. His family moved to Kansas City when he was a teenager, where he graduated from Central High School in 1899. Named after his maternal grandfather, “Aytch” — as close friends called him — earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri in 1903, where he was a hurdler on the track team. A.P. graduated from the University of Kansas City Law School in 1906.
He practiced law in Kansas City for a number of years, marrying Leigh Yawkey in Wausau on Aug. 15, 1911. The newlywed’s lived in Kansas City until A.P.’s father-in-law, Cyrus Yawkey, persuaded the couple to move to Wausau in 1913 so A.P. could assist with some business affairs.
Joining the Wausau Group — Cyrus was an original member — A.P. was an immediate asset helping set the community up for future success. A forward-thinking collection of businessmen investing in and encouraging new businesses to diversify the declining white pine lumber industry, the Wausau Group planted the seeds starting new companies in north central Wisconsin, and investing in other ventures across the U.S. and Canada.
As a welcome gift, Cyrus and his wife Alice purchased the lot across from their McIndoe Street home, hiring architect George Maher to design a Prairie School style home for A.P. and Leigh. After moving into to their new home in 1914, four children were born to the couple over the following six years. During World War I, A.P. served as an officer of a Wisconsin State Guard unit.
A.P. participated in an amazing array of business undertakings for the next 45 years. During his lifetime he served as a director or officer of 88 corporations, focusing on the paper, public utility and insurance industries. Among local organizations he was affiliated with included Marathon Electric, Wisconsin Valley Trust, Mosinee Paper Mills, Yawkey Lumber, Employers Mutual, Wausau Theaters, Hall Garage, Wisconsin Box and Clark Realty.
Outside Wisconsin, A.P.’s interests included organizing the Masonite Corporation, serving on the boards of Burke Electric, Bay West Paper, McCloud River Lumber, Montana-Dakota Utilities, American Box Board, Lumberman’s Underwriting, Marshall & Ilsley Bank and Marathon Paper Mills Canadian interests.
A.P. is also remembered as a community pacesetter. Most notably, he was instrumental in supporting the development of the Wausau YMCA, still bearing his name. He was active with the Wausau Memorial Hospital, Wausau Rotary Club, Wausau Chamber of Commerce, Wausau Club, and a member of the Masons, Moose and Knights of Phythias. He and Leigh attended the First Universalist Church. He also founded the Aytchmonde P. Woodson Foundation, Inc. supporting various charities and schools, which is still active today.
A.P. passed away at the age of 77 on Oct. 8, 1958, after suffering a heart attack ten days earlier.
While much information is available about his business interests and civic work, little is remembered about A.P. Woodson’s temperament or private life, just as he wanted. The area owes a great deal to this man of foresight and quiet integrity.