After graduating from Prairie View A & M University in Texas, she moved to Detroit in 1962 where she met her husband, Porterfield, who was in the used car business. He was appointed the Pontiac dealer in Detroit in December, 1970.
At that time, she was working in the accounting department of GM. But with the acquisition of Pontiac, the decision was made for her to join her husband and learn the business the 'old fashioned way, by doing it" - - doing anything and everything to make the business successful.
During this period, they acquired GMC Truck. In March of 1979, the Wilson's, were approached by Honda to be their dealer in Ferndale which they accepted. Barbara Wilson was shown as the President and Dealer Operator on the sales and service agreement along with her husband as dealer principals. She managed the business on a day to day basis.
When Porterfield died in 1989, the Pontiac dealership was closed, and Barbara devoted her full attention to successfully managing Ferndale Honda which she did until 1996. History will record Barbara Wilson as the first African-American woman to appear as a dealer principle in the automotive retail business.