Jacqueline Wright was born in Forrest City, Arkansas on December 1, 1930 to the union of Sedalia and Gerdine Turner, and went home to be with her Lord after peacefully making her transition in her home on October 21, 2019. She was 88. After spending her formative years in her hometown, Jackie and her family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin so that her father could pursue more lucrative employment opportunities. After moving to Milwaukee, her mother fulfilled a dream of becoming a business owner, by purchasing a building with rental property and establishing and operating 3 popular beauty salons on the city’s north side. As a gregarious and jovial teenager, Jackie 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. Jackie was quite popular in high school, well-liked by students and teachers alike, graduating from North Division High School, in Milwaukee in 1948. After graduation, friends say Jackie’s mother packed several large trunks, full of beautiful clothes, as she sent Jackie off to college at Wilberforce University, the country’s first private historically black university. During her freshman year, she met the man who would later become her husband, Rev. James C. Wright. The couple married on her birthday, December 1, in 1951 in Milwaukee.
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After moving to her new husband’s hometown, Camden, South Carolina, to care for his ill parents, Jackie became the first lady of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, the city’s largest African American church, as her husband was named its new pastor. Jackie also worked as a substitute teacher at Jackson Junior High School. Jimmy had his barbers license, working alongside his father in his business, the largest barber shop in the city, and Jackie decided to pursue her cosmetology license in neighboring Columbia, South Carolina.
When Jimmy was accepted to graduate school at UW-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. Jimmy sold the business, on a handshake, after accepting a position to head the Equal Opportunities Department with the City of Madison, and Jackie became a caring and devoted stay-at-home mom to her two children, Deana and Coley, who the couple lovingly adopted as babies.
Jackie, affectionately known as “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. Jackie and her husband were a working 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. Jackie 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.
Jackie and her husband 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. They all called her “mom”, and several have continued to stay in touch, even to this day.
Jackie 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.
Jackie 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.
She loved her TV watching, as she became less mobile over the last few years … The Price is Right, Let’s Make a Deal, cooking shows on The Food Network, CNN and MSNBC (when the news wasn’t Trump-related), reality singing competitions, The Steve Harvey Show (yep, she was bummed when his show was cancelled this year) and old episodes of Law and Order, watching into the wee hours of the morning. Jackie also loved watching basketball games, especially Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Jackie loved wearing anything sparkly … and she loved her hats!
As a born again Christian, Mother Jackie 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. Jackie 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.
Jacqueline was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She was preceded in death by her father, Sedalia Turner, her mother, Gerdine Turner, her uncles, Verlee Keaton, James Keaton and Tennie Keaton, an aunt, Gertrude Jackson, and her husband Rev. James C. Wright.
She is survived by her daughter, Deana Wright, her son, Colemon Wright, her grandchildren, Derek Gregory, Britni Chavis and Cosha Wright, her great-grandchildren, Aliana Broadnax and Christian Wright, her brother-in-laws, Jerome Wright (Eunice), William Wright, her nieces, Eunice Wright, Kim Heartley and Angela Wright, her cousins Rennett Smith (Allen), and Junior Turner, and a host of friends.