In Memory

Victor Wright VIEW PROFILE

(Written by David Rutherford)

Victor Wright, who for decades inspired millions through his perseverance and faith after suffering a high-school football injury that left him quadriplegic, has died. Wright, who turned 55 April 8, died Saturday April 30, 2016 at his Altadena, CA home under the care of his family. He had just been discharged from the hospital earlier this month after having anemic reactions to internal infections. An official cause of death has not been released.

Victor Johnell Wright was born April 8, 1961, in Knoxville, Tennessee, the fifth of nine children, to Donald and Dorothy Wright. Donald moved his family to Los Angeles when Victor was 4. His mother, the family's primary breadwinner, worked in school cafeterias, often riding the bus as far away as Santa Monica, working 16 hours a day. The family first settled in a hotel room on L.A's south side, then moved into an Eastside duplex shortly after losing nearly everything to a fire.

Economic conditions improved and in the late '60s they moved to Pasadena, where Victor's older siblings competed in sports at the local Boys Club. Soon his family was attracted to Altadena - which reminded them of their rural Tennessee lifestyle - where they bought their current home of nearly 50 years.

Victor attended Madison Elementary and Edison Elementary. He was a  promising athlete who lettered in five sports at Eliot Jr. High School. His dreams of being a running back at USC were shattered when he broke his neck as a sophomore while playing injured for John Muir High School in Pasadena, on a botched play during the second game of the 1976 season against La Cañada's St. Francis High.

Wright, who had injured his knee during practice the previous Monday, was planning on sitting out the game but was asked by the coaching staff to suit up so he be used as a decoy, since he and and his backup running back (who was ruled ineligible for living outside of the school district) were the only ones familiar with the running plays.

Pressed into service, Wright never ran the ball but, following an intercepted pass near the end of the first half, made contact with the St. Francis safety with the crown of his helmet in an effort to jar the ball loose. He was unable to make a square hit because he could not properly plant the injured leg and lay motionless on the ground for 40 minutes before paramedics arrived.

He spent six months in the intensive care unit at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena. Two months later, teammates who visited him credit him as being the inspiration for Muir's 13-10 win over arch-rival Pasadena High in the 1976 Turkey Tussle, which broke a 10-year losing streak in the annual rivalry (which has been dominated by Muir ever since).

His story got the attention of the late Eugene Patton, better known as Gene Gene the Dancing Machine of the popular 1970s television game show The Gong Show. Patton, the late father of then Muir quarterback Sidney Patton, told the show's producer Chuck Barris that the only way Wright would be able to see the game from his hospital bed was if it were aired live on local television. Barris, whose network show was broadcast weekdays on NBC, influenced the local affiliate KNBC to cover the Turkey Tussle as the High School Game of the Week, allowing Wright to view the storied matchup.

Wright was transferred to Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey in early 1977, where he spent another six months before returning home. There he was home schooled by his high school English teacher Sylvia Jones and graduated on schedule with his classmates in 1979. In his book, he noted his dream was to play football at the Rose Bowl but receiving his high school diploma on the field was even more gratifying.

His academic achievement motivated him to pursue a college degree. It took him 10 years but he became one of the first quadriplegics to accomplish that goal, an associate degree in human resources, through a rare program at Los Angeles City College for people with disabilities. It involved taking telecourses from home, reading Braille and writing with his mouth (one of the few body parts he could move since he was paralyzed from the neck down).

His 1990 graduation was covered by longtime KNBC newsman Furnell Chatman, whose report caught the attention of John Dhanaraj, then a recent graduate of Fuller theological seminary. The two became instant friends because of their deeply religious faiths. Together, they co-founded Family of Friends International, a non-profit Christian charity dedicated to providing relief supplies and educational services to children abroad who have lost their parents to natural disasters. Their efforts included assistance to victims of the 2005 Tsunami along the coast of the Indian Ocean and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The organization solicits corporate funding to provide bottled water, blankets, pencils, books and other supplies.

Wright's achievements have earned him numerous accolades, including a 2001 benefit golf tournament, which raised thousand of dollars for much-needed medical supplies; Victor Wright Night, a 2007 ceremony at his high school auditorium honoring him, his mother Dorothy (who died last July) and family members who provided around-the-clock care; induction to the John Muir High School Alumni Hall of Fame in 2007; a 2009 halftime ceremony on the field where he suffered the injury where he received an honorary letter from former Muir varsity football coach Ken Howard; a letterman's jacket from his Muir classmates, paid for with proceeds from their 30-year reunion in 2009; and a leaf on the Lions Clubs International Tree of Life, found on the wall of the lobby of Rancho Los Amigos.

In 2011, Wright became an ordained minister through the Association of Fundamental Ministers and Churches. In 2014 he became a published author when the book The Wright Stuff: A Story of Perseverance, Inspiration and Hope was released by AuthorHouse. It is available in soft cover, e-book and audiobook formats at AuthorHouse.com, Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

Victor Wright was a community treasure. What he and his family endured over the past 40 years was remarkable and inspirational and they handled it with dignity and grace.

He is survived by his father Donald and siblings, Milton, Dexter, Deborah, Cheryl, Rebecca and Joseph. He never married



 
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05/04/16 03:23 PM #1    

Kenneth Roberson

"Bullet"... Im mean victor, was an inspiration to me way before his accident. The humility in his smile, his comforting mannerism and the love he had for his friends and family was only illuminated and reconfirmed to us after his accident. The perseverance and determination he showed us by being a survivor shall always be missed and remembered for being that icon in our hearts and from our time that grew into a legend. Ro'me Rome STREET URCHINS PUBLISHING.

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