Will Daniel, cable pioneer and owner of Wilco Electronic Systems, Inc, 86, died on April 18, 2021 surrounded by family. Considered a visionary in the creation and evolution of the Philadelphia cable industry, Mr. Daniel began Wilco Electronic Systems, Inc., an African American private cable company, in May of 1977. Throughout his 40 year career, Mr. Daniel created a company which has become a leader and an anomaly among independent cable operators and was one of the few remaining minority-owned cable and telecommunications companies in the Nation.
Hailing from a small town called Roanoke Rapids, in North Carolina, Mr. Daniel came from humble roots. He was the 9th born, out of 11 children, to John and Mary Daniel and along with his brothers and sisters was an integral part of the family’s farming business. Mr. Daniel served a three-year tour of duty in the United States Army, and shortly after, he migrated up North to Philadelphia, fortified with a tireless work ethic and an acute business acumen to enter into the electronic and telecommunications industry. During his early years in Philadelphia, Mr. Daniel worked for nineteen years with Marco Video Systems, Inc., representing Jerrold Electronics in Eastern Pennsylvania. While At Marco, Mr. Daniel developed a keen hands-on approach to designing and building cable systems across the City, providing the foundation for the cable infrastructures that still exists in many of Philadelphia’s premier and historic apartment and housing buildings, to date. Soon after Marco was sold, Mr. Daniel started Wilco.
In 1980, Wilco was granted a franchise by Home Box Office, the nation’s leading pay television service, to market its programming to multi-dwelling unit buildings. This was the first time that such a franchise was granted to a minority owned firm in the Eastern United States. It was this franchise opportunity that opened the door for Wilco’s entry into the cable television industry.
One major milestone in Mr. Daniel’s career was his involvement in the Philadelphia municipal cable franchising process developed in the early 1980s around the building of the first cable systems in the City. Under the administration of Mayor Wilson Goode Sr., the original franchise agreement was allotted for cable service providers to bid for service in four (4) areas of the City, while including the requirement to have a minority partner or minority ownership opportunity, within each franchise agreement. Mr. Daniel was a partner and minority owner, within the Rollins Cablevision franchise, and later received equity when Rollins was sold to Comcast Cablevision.
After the sale of Rollins, Mr. Daniel began a 40 year friendship with Ralph Roberts, the Founder and CEO of Comcast Cablevision. Through that relationship, Wilco and Comcast created a partnership model wherein low cost cable services were able to be provided for underserved and low income communities in Philadelphia. This model is still one of the most unique and innovative business concepts in the cable industry today.
David Cohen, Former Senior Executive Vice President of Comcast who now serves as a Senior Advisor of Comcast Corporation described Mr. Daniels as a ‘Philadelphia icon.’
“He was a visionary business person who never lost sight of the community from which he came,” Cohen said. “He was a real partner to Comcast, helping our company to expand in Philadelphia and to take root in the African American community. His advice was always prescient. His friends at Comcast will miss him, but more importantly, all of us in Philadelphia will miss his leadership and commitment to making lives better in Philadelphia.”
Through the leadership of Mr. Daniel, Wilco has demonstrated a strong commitment to enhancing the lives of the residents in the communities it serves. The company’s reputation for solid operating performance, innovative services, personalized customer service and being a voice within Philadelphia’s minority communities, remains widely acknowledged amongst Philadelphia’s most prominent leaders and throughout the Nation.
“Will Daniel was a successful businessperson and a pillar of his community. At every turn, he gave back and sought to create opportunities for others,” said Senator Bob Casey, “During this time, we mourn his loss, but also celebrate his life. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones during this time.”
In 2001, Wilco became the first sole and exclusive provider of cable television services for the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA). This was the first time that a minority owned firm had the exclusive right to provide services to the entirety of a public housing authority. Wilco soon became a voice and a pillar for minority underserved communities in Philadelphia. In 2003, Wilco grew its partnership with the PHA by creating a solely owned and operated community entertainment cable channel specifically for PHA residents. In 2006, Wilco upgraded its PHA cable system and began offering digital cable services. Wilco became the first cable provider to offer digital cable services at low and affordable prices for PHA residents.
“Will Daniel, was an incredible man,” said Asia Coney, President of the Resident Advisory Board of Philadelphia. “His integrity, determination and commitment were second to none. Many of the resident organizations that we represent have had a very long, positive and productive relationship thanks to Will’s tireless and relentless work ethic as well as the many years he provided services to the residents who reside in properties owned and managed by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. I consider myself blessed to have been able to call him friend.”
In an historic transaction, Comcast acquired the cable assets of Wilco Electronic Systems, Inc., in January of 2018. As a result of this transaction, Comcast invested in significant upgrades to Wilco’s infrastructure at PHA sites and provided residents with access to the full suite of Comcast Xfinity products and services, including and most importantly, Internet Essentials, Comcast’s affordable internet service for low-income families.
After the acquisition of Wilco’s cable division, the company pivoted its operations and services to focus on the basic foundations of its core business, low voltage wiring and design, access control and surveillance, and Internet of Things technologies. Under the leadership of second generation family and now fueled with new cloud based technology platforms, Wilco has become a modern and unique security and access integrator sitting at the epicenter between the convergence of real estate, technology and impact.
Throughout the years, Mr. Daniel has always believed that family is the most important aspect of one’s life. To that end, he has employed and laid the foundation for his family to continue his legacy and build upon Wilco’s long standing relationships with its customers and the larger community, which has been critical to its long-term success.
His daughter Brigitte Daniel-Corbin, CEO and President of Wilco, said nothing made her prouder than to be the daughter of Will Daniel.
“He was not only my father, he was my friend, partner, mentor and my first shining example of hard work and success. I will forever miss his warmth, guidance and passion for community and I am honored and blessed to continue and grow his impactful legacy.”
Senator Sharif Street said Mr. Daniel was his mentor who later hired him as his lawyer and treated him like family.
“He was a great family man and I was honored that he included me in his family,” said Street. “He was a pioneer amongst Black business people in the technology space and through all of it, humble and God fearing. He will be missed but he has left a great legacy in his family and business,”.
“I will always think of him as a role model in how to conduct business and how to be a man,” he added.
“Mr. Will Daniel was a fierce businessman within the cable industry and fully committed to the Black community of Philadelphia,” said Harold Epps, former Commerce Director of the City of Philadelphia. “What I most admired about Mr. Daniel was his role as a husband and a girl dad . He leaves a legacy to be emulated. May he rest in power.”
Mr. Daniel’s reputation as a community leader is also shown through his commitment and involvement in numerous Boards and organizations. Over a 20-year period he served as a Board of Director for many of the City’s most well known civic institutions including the Bridge Program and the American Red Cross. He was also a Board Member Emeritus of the Philadelphia Theatre Company and has been an avid supporter and patron of the Theater Company for over 15 years.
His business, entrepreneurial, and humanitarian endeavors have brought him many awards, including a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, numerous significant achievement awards from Mayor Wilson Goode Sr., Mayor John F. Street and Mayor Michael Nutter, and most recently a 2013 Paragon Legacy Award (which he shared with his daughter, Brigitte Daniel) from NAMIC (National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications).
“Will Daniel was a pioneer among the initial cable franchise establishment in Philadelphia and as a minority owner became the last-man standing,” said Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. “As an honest businessman, who refused to be bought or sold, I am proud to have called him friend.”
A devout Christian, Mr. Daniel served over 40 years at Salem Baptist Church under the pastoring of Robert Johnson Smith Sr., who was also a close personal friend. Mr. Daniel was a prominent leader at Salem and was the founder and creator of the first Salem Baptist Church Audio Visual Department, of which the audiovisual studio was named in his honor, the Will Daniel Audio Video Studio, in 1989.
“Will Daniel’s loss is one that reverberates across the city and its varied communities,” said Reverend Marshall Mitchell, pastor of Salem Baptist Church. He was a public servant in the form of a businessman. He was a private cheerleader for Black businesses and his legacy will outlast his mortal years. He will be sorely missed.”
Mr. Daniel was an active member at Bethlehem Baptist Church of Spring House Pennsylvania until his passing.
“We have lost an incredible giant,” said Reverend Charles W. Quann, Pastor of the Bethlehem Baptist Church. “Will Daniel was truly a legend, a man of God, who loved God, loved his family and was truly a blessing to this congregation. He was an entrepreneur and he gave so much to so many. We thank God for his life and for the blessings he has bestowed upon countless people.”
Other business, religious, and civic leaders from across Philadelphia paid tribute to the life of Will Daniel:
“I am heart broken. In life and business we meet many people, but very few with the integrity of Mr. Will Daniel. We were his partner and his customer for over four decades. He will be sorely missed.” -Sam Goldstein, President of The Galman Group
“The long and fruitful partnership between Wilco and Kaiserman Company was one of mutual success which we hope will continue into the future. Their long history together is one for the history books, And out of this wonderful business relationship grew a deep and lifelong friendship between Will Daniel and Ken Kaiserman. He will be greatly missed in the community and in this world – an incredibly special person of strong character who left us so unexpectedly. Our hearts go out to his family and I know how proud he is of his daughter, Brigitte, who honors her father every day and will continue his legacy with great intelligence and elegance.” -Amanda Kaiserman, Daughter of Ken Kaiserman, Founder of the Kaiserman Companies.
Services to celebrate the life and legacy of Will Daniel will be livestreamed at BBC4christ.org and at BBandHodges.com, Friday, April 30th starting at 9am, service will begin at 11am. Media Contact:
On Point Communications