Washington, D.C., 2012-10-29 — / — The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation (AH&LEF) presented members of the Kemmons Wilson family with the Hospitality Heritage Award on October 23, in Orlando. Considered one of the lodging industry’s most prestigious honors, the award acknowledges the family’s remarkable leadership and commitment to the hospitality industry and their community involvement. Accepting the award on behalf of the family was McLean Wilson; Spence Wilson, Bob Wilson, Spence Wilson, Jr., and Kemmons Wilson, Jr., were also in attendance.

Wilson stands as one of the past century’s most noteworthy innovators. In 1952, the first Holiday Inn was built in Memphis, Tennessee due to a personal quest out of frustration from his own family vacations. From Memphis to Washington, D.C., Wilson was increasingly annoyed by the random rules he encountered at the motels along the way, and so he resolved to build his own hotel chain. By 1959, Holiday Inn had 100 properties that were providing standardized hotel services to America’s open-road travelers, and by the 1970s, Holiday Inn had reached across oceans.

Wilson left a living legacy with the creation of the Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management at the University of Memphis. Additionally, the Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation is a family-run foundation that honors the legacy of giving established by Kemmons and Dorothy Wilson. Giving categories include community service and outreach, empowerment of youth, enrichment of education, faith-based ministries, and health and research-related organizations.

“In my opinion, Kemmons Wilson is the industry’s most notable innovator and visionary,” said AH&LA President and CEO Joseph A. McInerney, CHA. “He lined America’s new highways with welcome mats, which had an enormous impact on our industry. We are pleased to honor this industry icon with our most distinguished award.”

The Kemmons Wilson family is the 10th recipient of the Hospitality Heritage Award. Past recipients include JW Marriott, Barron Hilton, the Tisch family, and the Carlson family.

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AH&LEF is the charitable fund-raising and endowed fund-management subsidiary of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Founded in 1953, AH&LEF is the premier organization for scholarships, professional certification, and instructional material as well as funding for hospitality industry research. For more information, visit

Serving the hospitality industry for more than a century, AH&LA is the sole national association representing all sectors and stakeholders in the lodging industry, including individual hotel property members, hotel companies, student and faculty members, and industry suppliers. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AH&LA provides members with national advocacy on Capitol Hill, public relations and image management, education, research and information, and other value-added services to provide bottom-line savings and ensure a positive business climate for the lodging industry. Partner state associations provide local representation and additional cost-saving benefits to members.