Family, Campbell classmates share fond memories at Aug. 11 service
BY JAMES HARPER
Lori Miles said she will cherish and remember moments of her Uncle Willie Wright’s early life.
Wright died Aug. 4 at age 80.
Miles read a poem she wrote in tribute to Wright to family and friends at the funeral, which took place Aug. 11 at the R.J. Gainous Funeral Home.
She shared about his bout with Alzheimer’s disease.
“You didn’t die. You went on living; your mind had reached its end. . . Concentrate on early life and we’ll remember the best, when you were fit and we’re here to pay our last respects. Uncle Willie, we love you,” read Miles, choking back the tears.
Miles said Wright, who was a retired educator, was always teaching.
“‘You got that report card?’ he would ask us. I’ll cherish those moments,” concluded Miles adding that he’d always reward them if they got good grades.
‘Captain’ of group
An educator, Wright also was well known in the Daytona Beach area for his activism as a member of the local NAACP and as an advocate for holistic medicines.
James Daniels graduated with Wright from Campbell Street High School in 1950. Daniels, along with several of their classmates, was in attendance at Wright’s funeral on Aug. 11 along with Clarence Badie, Alphonso Blake, Lutha Laws, Sam Rogers, Jerry Murphy and Willie Fields.
Daniels spoke for the group. Daniels said he, Wright and the others have stayed in contact with each other since graduating. In recent years, they have been getting together at least once a month. He said they called Wright “the captain.’’
“It was part of his makeup,” Daniels said. “When he set his mind to do something, he did his best.
“He kept busy doing something. Run out to the dog track every once in a while,” Daniels said to laughter from the congregation.
Kept family together
Wright’s funeral took place the same weekend of his family’s reunion. Charles Jackson spoke on behalf of the family.
“He loved his family. (He was the) cornerstone of the family reunion, the glue that kept it together. Willie’s played his last hand. He’s headed to the promise land,” Jackson.
Wright’s nephew, the Rev. Floyd Miles of New Jerusalem Primitive Baptist Church, in Perry, delivered the final words of comfort.
The minister called his uncle “a great man” and remembered the summers he visited Wright while he was living and teaching in Miami.
“Every summer we would go down. He dressed really sharp. Shirt tucked in pants. With Uncle Willie, you had to have your shirt tucked – even in your shorts,” Rev. Miles said laughing and while recounting how his uncle would purchase him Bermuda shorts and matching shirts.
“I didn’t wear my shorts the way he wore his,” the minister added, as he demonstrated how Wright wore his shorts high above his waistline.
Proud of activism
The minister also remembered how important it was to his uncle for them to get an education.
“He was always an educator. He was always trying to teach us something. He never talked to kids as kids. You had to be on point when you were around Uncle Willie,” he stated.
Rev. Miles said he proud of his uncle’s activism.
“He’d speak out in a heartbeat. He was an activist. He was about the right thing. He didn’t mind standing up for right. He helped me realize that if there is an issue, you are the answer,” the minister continued.
He also touched on his uncle’s Alzheimer’s.
“He fought a battle he didn’t tell a whole bunch of people about,” Rev. Miles said.
“He knew his hour was coming, “He was going to suffer something,” the minister added, quoting from John 16 in the Bible. He added that his uncle had tribulations in the world but he is now with the father and has “overcome the world.
“Be that educator for somebody. Keep the family together. Do the thing Willie Wright stood for and he’ll live forever,” concluded Rev. Miles.
Veteran, B-CC grad
Willie Wright was born in Favoretta, near Palm Coast, on Feb. 12, 1932, to the Rev. Saul and Estella Wright. He was a 1950 graduate of the former Campbell Street High School. He received his B.S. from Bethune-Cookman College in education. He received a master’s degree from the University of Miami.
He was an Army veteran of the Korean Conflict. Wright was married to Annie Ruth Jones in September 1952 until 1987. He taught at Buena Vista Middle School and became assistant principal at Miami Norland Middle School until he retired in 1988.
He leaves to cherish his memory, one daughter: Pamela Wright, Snellville, Ga.; three sisters: Estella Sheppard (Ralph), Xenia, Ohio; Claudia Miles (Floyd), Daytona Beach; and Betty Griggs, Jacksonville; three brothers: Alphonso Griggs, Carlton “Frog” Griggs and Alfred “Crabby” Wright, all of Daytona Beach; three grandchildren: Laquandria Wright, Jalen Jordan, Jada Jordan, all of Snellville, Ga.; and other relatives.