Tribute to the Wrights set for Sunday at Mount Carmel
Published: Friday, January 31, 2014 at 6:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 31, 2014 at 6:24 p.m.
The Rev. Thomas A. Wright has lived a life of service.
Having fought in World War II, raised four children with his wife, served as president of the NAACP for 17 years and a veterans hospital chaplain, spent more than 50 years in the pulpit and just as much time outside of it serving his community, Wright, 93, decided to gather up what he said he didn’t need and give it to those who do.
This year, he established a $50,000 endowment at Santa Fe College providing scholarships to students in multi-family housing developments in Alachua County — his third endowment in a lifetime.
He will be honored during a ceremony recognizing the Rev. Thomas A. Wright and Affie M. Wright Family Scholarship at 3 p.m. Sunday at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, 2505 NE Eighth Ave. The event is open to the public.
“God has blessed me tremendously,” Wright said. “He has blessed my children. And I just decided, I’m going to help some children that may not have been as fortunate as what I have been.”
SF College communications coordinator Amanda Hernandez said the endowment is extremely important to the underserved population it will benefit.
To qualify for the scholarships, students must do well in school and live in a multi-family housing development in Alachua County.
In the past, Hernandez said, “They might have the cure for cancer, but they never go to school because no one helped them or taught them that they could do it.”
This scholarship program will give students the tools to do so, she said.
Wright was born in Moultrie, Ga., and grew up in Boynton Beach. He was one of eight children in a very poor household, he said.
After World War II, he attended Florida Memorial University on the GI Bill. He did well there, he said, and he was recommended on scholarship to Howard University’s School of Divinity.
Years later, he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Florida — one of only a handful of African-Americans to be honored with one.
Seven years of free education showed Wright what a difference a scholarship can make in a person’s life, he said, so with the money he made from the sale of his books, he started endowments at both Howard and Florida Memorial.
Then, three or four years ago, he read an article in Time Magazine detailing the poverty and isolation of people living in multi-family housing, a problem he already knew so much about from working with local families.
About 4,000 people live in 12 multi-family housing developments in east Gainesville, according to information provided by SF College.
Drug and alcohol abuse, violence and crime are rampant in the projects, Wright said, and it’s a growing national problem. To combat that, at least in some of the children who grow up in those developments, Wright established his latest endowment with the money left over from book sales and the sale of his house a few months ago.
“I can’t do anything about a national problem,” he said. “But I can help a little bit on the local level.”
Wright said it’s his hope that scholarship recipients will not only go to college, but earn degrees, get good jobs, build strong families and find a way to give back to their communities someday.
“That’s what it’s all about,” he said.
Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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