Dr. John L. Wright was what could be called a persistent advocate; he seized every opportunity to make his voice heard. He even turned his AFRO church directory ad into a personal billboard, decrying injustice, encouraging protest, signifying that which had been determined to be insignificant.
On Jan. 28, Wright – a pastor, preacher, husband and father – died from complications of a melanoma at St. Agnes Hospital. He was 73.
The Rev. Dr. Alvin Hathaway called him an “authentic Christian.”
“Dr. Wright uniquely understood how to keep his eyes on God and his feet on the ground,” Rev. Hathaway said. “He understood that one’s worship of God was expressed in how one lived and served, as well as how one preached.”
Rev. Hathaway said Rev. Wright was “a tireless advocate for those without voice.”
Relentless is a word that comes to mind. His determination was to serve in as many ways as possible so he would not be limited by the confines of the church he so lovingly led for 22 years, First Baptist Church of Guilford, in Columbia.
He made his voice heard in the NAACP. He encouraged voter participation and clarified elections when necessary.
He could be found at local community gatherings as well as at the Oxford University Roundtable at St. Anne’s College in England with religious leaders from around the world.
Despite his international travels, Wright’s roots were firmly planted in Baltimore. The child of a homemaker and a Bethlehem Steel Corp. employee, Wright grew up on N. Calhoun Street and graduated from Carver Vocational-Technical High school before serving in the Army for two years.
After serving his country in Italy, Wright returned to Baltimore where he worked as a home improvement contractor until 1966, when he began work as a building operations mechanic at City Hall. Two years later, he began a 13-year tenure as maintenance supervisor at the Western District police station.
It was during this time that Wright, who served as a Bible studies teacher at New Union Baptist Church, met the woman who’d become his wife, the former Ida Mitchell.
A lover of learning, Wright’s education was ongoing throughout his marriage and various vocational endeavors. He received theological degrees from the National Theological Seminary and College, Eastern Theological Seminary and the Virginia Theological Seminary and College in Lynchburg, Va. He is also a graduate of the FBI Citizen’s Academy and completed Mini-Med School classes at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
He served as president of the Baptist Pastors Conference of Baltimore and Vicinity and most recently as president of the United Baptist Missionary Convention of Maryland.
A citizen of the world, Dr. Wright was named a chief in the village of Asiaskwa outside of Accra, Ghana, being crowned Chief Nanna Appiah Atu III. He has also been robed an African chief of the village, Bong County, Liberia, according to First Baptist’s website.
He shared his life and ministry with his wife, Ida Mitchell Wright and their daughter, Dr. Sheila Wright.
Services for the Rev. John L. Wright took place Feb. 4 at St. John Baptist Church in Columbia, Md.