FOUNTAIN HILLS, Ariz. — Embedded in the educational, philanthropic and political landscape of Fountain Hills, the community felt the loss of Dr. C.T. Wright on Oct. 23.
Born Oct. 4, 1942, Wright was labeled at his recent memorial as “husband, teacher, leader, humanitarian, political activist and friend.”
Born and raised in Social Circle, Georgia, Wright grew up the son of tenant farmers, working in cotton fields his family did not own.
In a 2012 interview with The Fountain Hills Times, though, Wright noted that he had a pretty optimistic view.
“I was born on the first Sunday in October,” Wright said. “If you were born on a Sunday in the South, it was considered good luck. If I had not been born on a Sunday, I would have most likely been born in a cotton field. So, I guess it was lucky.”
As an only child, Wright said his greatest influence in life was his mother, who insisted he could be whatever he wanted so long as he “worked twice as hard as everyone else” and stayed out of trouble. He admitted in 2012 that he was not the best student in his earlier years but, over time, he grew to love education and desired to make it a lasting part of his life.
Wright attended Georgia public school and graduated top of his class at Carver High School in Monroe, Georgia. Wright had to travel 10 miles to school growing up, as segregation prevented him from attending the school just one mile from his home.
Life threw a lot of obstacles in Wright’s way but, motivated by his mother’s words of wisdom, he overcame them all.
Wright went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in social science education from Fort Valley State University and a Master of Arts in history from Clark Atlanta University. He carried out additional studies at George Williams College and Carnegie Mellon University, and achieved his doctorate in American history and New England Studies from Boston University. Wright also received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Mary Holmes College.
He served as a teacher and administrator at several schools for many years and, in 1974, he married Mary Stevens.
The two eventually left Georgia to live and work in Massachusetts, Washington, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Florida and, eventually, Arizona. The Wright family settled in Fountain Hills in 1999. Mary passed away on May 2 of this year.
While living in Fountain Hills, C.T. and Mary stayed involved locally, as well as at the state and national level.
According to a town proclamation read during C.T.’s funeral services this past weekend, he and Mary were being honored for their “exemplary altruistic service and dedication to the Town of Fountain Hills.”
The proclamation notes the couple’s involvement in many local civic groups including the Cultural and Civic Association, the Library Association, the L. Alan Cruikshank River of Time Museum and the Sister Cities program. Also noted is their involvement with the Fountain Hills Republican Club, Noon Kiwanis and Wright’s long tenure on the Fountain Hills Unified School District Governing Board.
Mayor Ginny Dickey proclaimed Oct. 31 as Dr. C.T. and Mary Wright Day “in honor of their invaluable service to the town of Fountain Hills.”
Dickey also reached out to The Times to express her condolences to those who knew Wright best.
“Our community has lost another public servant and leader, FHUSD board member C.T. Wright,” Dickey said. “An unabashed advocate for our students, his kindness will be missed.
“All our wishes for peace, warm memories and comfort to Dr. Wright’s family, friends and colleagues.”
Fountain Hills resident and Republican Club member Boe James also noted Wright’s devotion to his faith.
“Although not an ordained minister, he has served as the chaplain for the Fountain Hills Republican Club and the local Republican Legislative District Committee, currently LD-23, and is known for his rousing prayers,” James said.
Locally, one of Wright’s biggest contributions has been to education, serving on the FHUSD Governing Board since 2007. During his first campaign, Wright said, “My platform is, ‘Leave no child behind: Changing Fountain Hills, one student at a time.’”
Following the news of Wright’s passing, Superintendent Kelly Glass highlighted his 14 years of service on the local school board.
“He was a champion of children and the school district,” Glass said. “Known for his positive and caring disposition, Dr. Wright’s passing leaves an incredible void on our board, but also in our community.”
A statement from Gov. Doug Ducey highlighted Wright’s life of hard work and service for the benefit of others.
“His diverse life experience included working as a day laborer in Georgia cotton fields, elementary school teacher, college professor and administrator, university president, executive director and founder of development programs, faith leader, delegate to three national political conventions – including for Presidents (Barack) Obama and (Donald) Trump – and member of the Arizona Electoral College,” the statement reads.
“A criminal justice expert, Dr. Wright developed and supervised training programs for law enforcement officers…as well as an education program for inmates in Florida.”
Wright also served on the Governor’s Advisory Council on Aging, the Arizona State University Center for Political Thought and Leadership and founded the Light of Hope Institute, which promotes civil and human rights around the world.
“It is with immense sadness that we say goodbye to an Arizona treasure and great man, Dr. C.T. Wright,” Ducey said. “A pastor, teacher, criminal justice expert, public servant and civic leader, Dr. Wright lived a life defined by hard work and faith. He was someone who believed strongly in America and all that we stand for; someone who loved Arizona and its people; someone who promoted unity and believed strongly in the power of prayer.
“He was intensely devoted to his late wife, Mary, with whom he shared 45 years of marriage, and embodied the virtues of humility, kindness and, above all, faith. His passionate and powerful voice will be missed greatly at Sunday services and in the halls of our state Legislature, and Arizona is profoundly thankful for his life of service.”