Willie Albert Wright
Willie Albert Wright was born June 4, 1936 to James and Louise Lloyd (both deceased) in Fort Motte (Calhoun County), South Carolina.
The only child of his parents, Willie grew up with his seven first cousins on his parents' farm. "As a young child, I didn't know much about farming because I was the youngest of my seven cousins. However, as each day passed, I learned something new about farming. For me, picking cotton was fun. As a youngster, I didn't know that picking cotton was a money maker and you had to reach a certain goal in order to earn your money. As time went on, I was able to grasp what to do and keep up with my cousins."
For the first seven years of my life, my grandparents -- Catoe and Amanda Wright -- raised me and my seven cousins as sisters and brothers. Our grandparents taught us the values and morals of life. They also taught us how to work and the value of working. My grandfather would always say, "Be a man. Be somebody." These values have always been a part of my life as I've grown over the years.
After a period of time, the parents of some of my cousins were able to find jobs outside of Fort Motte and they "move on up". My parents, James and Laurie, moved to Columbia in 1943 when my father found work at the Binswanger Glass Company. My mother engaged in domestic work for more than 40 years.
I entered Sarah Nance Elementary School in the Booker Washington Heights neighborhood after moving to Columbia with my parents. We resided at 3509 Carver Street, and my parents' home is still located there. My son, Gary, currently lives in the family house.
After finishing Sarah Nance, I enrolled in C.A. Johnson High School and graduated in 1955. As a youngster during those days, you only went to church and school. At church, I was a member of the Junior Missionary Society, under the leadership of Mrs. Emily Davenport; the Usher Board, which was led by Mrs. Hattie Bailey; and the Junior Choir under the leadership of Mrs. Isabell Goodwin and Mrs. Clara Davenport.
"We were guided by strong believers in Christ. And, we knew not to cross the line [because] the news went from church to home, and from school to home. And, it better be good or ELSE."
After graduating from high school, I joined the U.S. Army in 1955 and served for 21 years. I did four overseas tours -- one in Korea, two in Germany, and one in Viet Nam. I also did four stateside tours of duty at these posts: Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Hood, Texas; and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
I married the love of my life, Frances Helen Faulk, on September 19, 1955. Five children were born to our union -- four sons: Willie, Jr., Darrell Lewis, Charles Edward (deceased), and Gary; and one daughter: Donna (deceased). The children came along during my military years. We have also been blessed with seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
After I retired from the military, I sought work with the SCE&G Transit Company. I retired in 1995, after driving the city bus for 20 years.
During this time, I never forgot my church and my duties to the church. I continued serving with the Senior Usher Board. I even served three terms as the president. I also worked as the church custodian for approximately 15 years. I was baptized and married under the pastorate of the Rev. Roscoe C. Wilson, Sr., the only pastor from my childhood until his death.
"He was the most wonderful man and father figure that I have known. I still remember many of his sage wisdom about life. Some of them are:
- "Don't give the Devil a ride, soon he will want to drive."
- "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything."
- "You're known by the company you keep."
- "If it is not worth asking for, it is not worth having."
- "Be truthful, be honest. If you lie, you'll steal, and if you steal, you'll lie."
- "Say what you mean, mean what you say."
- "I may not see, mama and daddy may not see; but guess what, God sees it all."
"I have been in St. John Baptist Church since I was seven years old. You might say that it's been my life. Strong religious trainings, trainers, and strong examples were set for me from home to church to school and back home. All on one accord was said by mom and dad, pastor and teacher. It's been a great life. There have been ups and downs, ins and outs, but it's been good. I truly have been blessed with a great wife, family, kids, and church family. Yes, the greatest, and I thank God for it all."