Jacqueline Wright was a lovely treasure who treated everyone like family. Affectionally known as Mother Wright, her compassion for others was instinctive and her unshakable devotion to Christ sincere.
Hundreds gathered at Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Nov. 1 to celebrate her life through laughter and tears.
Born in Forrest City, Arkansas, Mrs. Wright died surrounded by loved ones on Oct. 21, 2019. She was 88. After spending her formative years in her hometown, Mother Wright and her family moved to Milwaukee so her father could pursue lucrative employment opportunities. While there, her mother fulfilled a dream of becoming a business owner. She purchased a building with rental property and operating three popular beauty salons on the city’s north side. As a gregarious and jovial teenager, Mrs. Wright often helped her mom by greeting clients and washing their hair. She loved singing in the Urban League choir and in her church, St. Paul A.M.E.
She also enjoyed having backyard garden parties, dancing, sewing, watching sporting events and walking down Walnut Street with her girlfriends on the weekends, wearing dippy hats. Mrs. Wright was quite popular in high school, well-liked by students and teachers alike, graduating from North Division High School in 1948. After graduation, she attended Wilberforce University, the country’s first private historically Black university. It was during her freshman year that she met the man she would marry, Rev. James C. Wright. The couple married on her birthday, Dec. 1, in 1951 in Milwaukee.
The couple moved to Camden, South Carolina, to care for her husband’s ill parents. While there, she became the first lady of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, the city’s largest African American church. She also worked as a substitute teacher at Jackson Junior High School.
When her husband was accepted to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the pair packed up and moved to Wisconsin in 1958. Once there, they became one of Madison’s first minority business owners, constructing and operating Jackie & Jimmy’s Beauty and Barber Shop. Mr. Wright sold the business on a handshake after accepting a position to head the Equal Opportunities Department with the City of Madison. Mrs. Wright became a caring and devoted stay-at-home mom to her two children, Deana and Coley, who the couple lovingly adopted as babies.
Mother Wright provided the love, support and inspiration her husband needed to face what could at times be a frightening, dangerous and demanding job fighting racism, and other inequities the Madison community. The couple worked as a team, facilitating fairness and equality throughout the Madison community, and beyond.
Mother Wright had one of the kindest spirits, and warmest smiles. She was humble, selfless and abundantly giving. She loved, and was loved by, all who she encountered. Mother Wright was the epitome of service to others, always willing to lend a helping hand and caring for others and their needs. She also had an amazing sense of humor, was witty and had an infectious laugh.
The Wrights sponsored many African students over the years, helping them with admission to UW-Madison, housing them, providing financial and emotional support and assisting with securing their green cards.
Mother Wright was a founding member of the Madison Urban League, Friends of South Madison, the Madison NAACP, and Minority Women’s Network. She was also a member of the League of Women Voters, Church Women United and sat on numerous boards and committees. She also was the recipient of several awards, including the Reverend James C. Wright Humanitarian Award, in 1996, the Wisconsin Women of Color Network’s Woman of Achievement Award and the Order of the Eastern Star, Friendship Chapter No. 2 Mother Full of Grace Award, in 2008.
She worked tirelessly for, and in, her community, serving on many boards, sitting on several committees and helping out at the polls on election days. She also volunteered at a multitude of organizations throughout her life, including at Wright Middle School, named after her late husband. Like him, she was a strong advocate for education, specifically for students of color.
As a born-again Christian, Mother Wright loved Jesus with all her heart. She was often seen handing out The Sinner’s Prayer to strangers at church, or while out and about. She frequently visited hospitals to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with patients, encouraging them to give their life to Christ. She was selfless, an abundant giver, was a true example of a Christian and lived her life biblically based. She believed in the gifts of the spirit and was an avid prayer warrior.
She loved her church, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, and her church family. She is a former first lady of the church. She was a member of the Mother’s Board, the Mission’s Ministry, the Rose of Sharon, the Food Pantry and the Mass Choir. Though her health prevented her from attending services over the last couple of years, she continued to listen to sermons online and follow along with scriptures in her bible. She was often heard in her bedroom, praying aloud or singing a favorite hymn.
A devoted wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, Mother Wright was loved beyond imagination and left an indelible fingerprint on each person she touched and footprint everywhere she went. In her honor, ushers handed out packets of chamomile tea ꟷ her favorite.