The Herald Bulletin

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Local News

February 15, 2013

Rev. Wright recalled as visionary leader

ANDERSON, Ind. — In the 1980s, the Rev. Ray Wright was a leader of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission when he gave Wayne Redding his first task for the commission.

Redding was to fill in the empty space that would in 1988 become the Martin Luther King Jr. Park on the city’s west side.

“I’d never done anything like that before but he gave me the assignment and said, ‘Redding, I know you can do it’,” recalled Redding, pastor at Kingdom of God in Christ. “It was a very difficult assignment but also very rewarding once we were able to bring it together.”

Today, the park and its statue stand as an enduring monument to King and city pride.

Wright, 78, died Thursday at his residence following an extended illness. His services are being handled by the L.C. May Funeral Home.

Wright been a leader in various community projects including annual neighborhood clean-up programs, focused on the west side in the 1990s. His lifetime achievements include the NAACP B. Harry Beckham Freedom Award, Rotary Club Community Image Award and the Dr. Martin Luther King Scholarship Fund Trailblazer Award.

On Friday, Wright’s friends recalled a man who was passionate about the community.

The Rev. Rudy Porter worked with Wright on projects to reduce violence in Anderson.

“Rev. Wright was a true mentor and friend,” said Porter, now pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Tifton, Ga. “He taught me the principle of turning the other cheek. When I would become perturbed, I had the tendency to bristle and rhetorically lash back. He taught me how to take verbal insults and thicken my skin so I could absorb those insults with a smile. He would say, “It can’t be phony, Rudy, you got to do it genuinely and naturally.”

“He cared very deeply about people and he cared especially about people in circumstances of need,” said the Rev. Edward Foggs, general secretary emeritus of the Church of God. “He was always eager to help others.

Redding added, “We will miss Rev. Wright and we’re greatly thankful for the journeys we’ve had together and for the great things that were done in our community had it not been for his leadership and his personality, his talent and his vision.”

Wright lived with his wife, Irene, next door to Love Alive Church of God in Christ, where he had served as pastor since its founding 33 years ago.

In 2010, Wright talked his start in the community operating a variety store near 22nd and Madison. He later opened his popular downtown seafood restaurant.

During an interview with Madison magazine, he was asked about becoming a pastor. In it, he recalled discussing the idea of becoming a pastor with an older friend.

Wright said, “It was never my intention of doing that ... One day I was sitting down there in Wright’s Variety Corner and the Spirit said, ‘Get these kids and take them and get them saved.’ I told God, I told the Spirit, ‘I’m not going to do that.’ The next thing I knew, I got sick.  ... I told this old mother all of this, and she said, ‘You’re lucky God didn’t kill you.’ That’s how it started.”

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