BOUNTIFUL -- Although he wasn't tall, Mel Wilson was considered by many to be a giant of a man when it came to the rights of crime victims.
The former Davis County Attorney died of pancreatic cancer Friday at age 68, said his oldest son, Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville.
"Mel was a significant advocate for crime victims in the state," said Chief Deputy Davis County Attorney Bill McGuire.
Wilson, after spending 30 years prosecuting criminals, decided in 2006 not to run for office again.
He served as the Davis County Attorney from 1987 to 2006, and before that, as a deputy county attorney and as Clearfield city's prosecutor.
After Wilson left the practice of law, Gov. Jon Huntsman appointed him as the director for the Office of Crime Victim Reparations.
When Wilson was a prosecutor, Rep. Wilson said, he never "shied away from the difficult cases, but took them on personally."
For years, Rep. Wilson watched his father be a champion for the victims of crime.
"My father was truly one of the real pioneers in this country and the state when it came to victims' rights," he said.
"When I was at the Capitol and there would be bills coming across concerning victims, they had my dad's fingerprints all over them."
Rep. Wilson said even though his father was a public person, he was first "a loving husband, father and grandfather."
Those who have worked with Wilson said he will be missed.
"When I think of Mel Wilson, I think of what an inspiration he was to many for years, when it comes to victims," said Ned Searle, director of the Office on Domestic and Sexual Violence.
"We consider him as one of the founders of the victims' rights movement in Utah. He had always been concerned about the treatment of victims, long before they officially had rights in our state Constitution and in our statutes."
Searle said Wilson never stopped thinking of ways to help victims. Even last week, when Wilson was too ill to come into work, he called with a list of things he wanted done by his office, Searle said.
Kay Card, executive director of Safe Harbor Crisis Center in Davis County, worked with Wilson when she was with child protective services.
"I testified many times for children who had been sexually abused and (Wilson) was the prosecutor," she said.
"He was committed to make sure those children had a voice. He was thorough and kind and caring with his work with the children."
Wilson hired current Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings.
"The most significant part of his legacy will be his commitment to victims and victims' rights," Rawlings said.
Defense attorney Todd Utzinger said even though Wilson and he were opponents many times in the courtroom, Wilson "was supportive of the idea that the criminal defendant have a good defense to keep the case fair."
Utzinger said Wilson was a "gracious" and "genuinely kind man."
Deputy Davis County Attorney Steve Major said he appreciated Wilson's sense of humor and commitment to justice.
Wilson expanded the Davis County Attorney's Office from 18 staff members to 39 and prosecuted many high-profile cases, including those of Robert Cameron Houston, Mark Anthony Ott and the Motel 6 defendants.
Wilson, who grew up in Davis County, is survived by his wife, Susie, seven children, 25 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A viewing will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Russon Brothers Mortuary, 295 N. Main St., Bountiful.
Visitation will also be from 9:45 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Woodland Hills LDS Ward building, 640 S. 750 East, Bountiful. The funeral will follow at 11 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family would like donations made to America First Credit Union under the name of Melvin C. Wilson Lifetime Achievement Award.
The award will be given annually by the Utah Office for Victims of Crime to those who have dedicated their lives to serving crime victims.