The family of Marvin Donald Wilkerson, the 66-year-old shot and killed by a deputy Wednesday, reeled a loss of a man they described as a kind and disabled veteran, who passed out candy to two small children in the minutes before his death at his home in the 4000 block of North Uranus Avenue.
Wilkerson was born Oct. 23, 1943, in Delhi, La., the oldest of eight children, said his sister, Betty Wilkerson-Kirby. The family moved around a bit, and their father died when the children were young. Their mom would remarry and the family moved around more.
But most of their lives were spent in Odessa, said family members at his home Wednesday, which included another sister, two brother-in-laws and a brother.
As an adolescent, two sisters remembered Thursday, Wilkerson rescued two boys from drowning in the Mississippi River after their rope swing broke. One of them was his brother. Another boy drowned.
The Army drafted Wilkerson in 1966 to the war in Vietnam, where he served as a crew chief on a Huey helicopter as a side-gunner until his release in 1968, according to his brother Ebb Smith Jr. He earned several medals, brother Wesley Wilkerson said Thursday night by phone.
Once Wilkerson returned to Odessa, he sought work in the oilfield, where he would land a job as a rig operator with Basin Well Services. He would work there for about 15 years, family said.
Fellow roughnecks noticed the “M.D.” on Wilkerson’s uniform and began calling him “Mad Dog,” a nickname that stuck, said his brother-in-law Don Kirby.
“It wasn’t him being a badass or anything,” Kirby said. “It was just an oilfield nickname.”
Wilkerson married in the early 1970s and divorced after about 18-years, said sister-in-law Betty Wilkerson on Thursday night.
Wilkerson left the company in the mid-1980s for a job with Rock Tool, where he would work as a fishing hand. He left that job a few years ago, Smith said, after a heart-attack required open-heart surgery.
Wilkerson’s health began to worsen in retirement, family members said. Within the last year, Smith said Wilkerson learned he suffered from ailments related to Agent Orange that he encountered in Vietnam. One ailment was respiratory, requiring Wilkerson to use an oxygen tank, Smith said. Another, his sister Linda Wilkerson-Julian said, was Parkinson’s Disease.
“He couldn’t even carry a cup of coffee to the counter without spilling it,” said Wilkerson-Julian. Instead, Wilkerson would fill the cup half-full.
Family members said Wilkerson had a girlfriend for about 10 years, who he’d been quarreling with the night he died. That woman could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The Ector County Sheriff’s Office reported deputies were responding to a report that Wilkerson was threatening people with a gun at 7:14 p.m. Wednesday night, and pulled a gun out of his waist band before Deputy Johnny Joe Valderaz shot him.
Family members said those actions don’t fit the man they remember.
“They would have had to have a picture of my brother pointing a gun at a police officer for me to believe it,” Wilkerson-Julian said.
Betty Wilkerson said her brother-in-law is survived by daughters Candy Sue Hickerson and Donnijo Hickerson, of Odessa; several grandkids; two brothers and five sisters.
Family members laid roses Thursday on the tires marking the ground where Wilkerson was shot.