Marion A. Wright was born on January 18, 1894 in Johnston, South Carolina. He attended the University of South Carolina, where he received his law degree in 1919. Prior to practicing corporate law in Conway, South Carolina, Wright taught public school and was a reporter for the Columbia Record. In 1916 he married Lelia Hauser. In Conway he was chairman of the Illiteracy Commission, as well as a member of the American Civil Liberties Union. From 1951 to 1958, Wright served as the president of the Southern Regional Council. He also served the council as vice president from 1958 to 1965. In the following years, Wright founded and became the first president of North Carolinians Against the Death Penalty (NCADP). Wright continued to fight for desegregation and the abolition of the death penalty, the two most important issues in his life, until his death on February 14, 1983.
As president and vice-president of the Southern Regional Council, Wright often delivered speeches and lectures on important human and civil rights issues, as Wright used his position to influence his audiences and promote equality. Wright also played a vital role on the board of directors for the American Civil Liberties Union, as he continued to speak out against segregation. His papers are housed at the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
Before a group of ministers meeting in Goldsboro, North Carolina, Wright offers a unique, polyphonic blend of the Old Testament, Shakespeare, Sophocles, Aristotle, and James Joyce to urge ministers to specific action against North Carolina’s Jim Crow system. One of the distinct features of religion, argues Wright, is that it resists and speaks out against tyranny. Wright seeks to establish two points: first, that it is the duty of the Christian minister to resist unjust laws; and, second, all of the world’s “great religions” have historically taken part in fighting against injustice. Wright catalogues those injustices in North Carolina specifically: blacks hold very few jobs other than janitorial positions, and school segregation is still the order of the day. And while prospects for civil rights continue to improve at the national level, Wright warns Governor Sanford that he and others are being watched. “The heroes of the church,” Wright concludes, did not dodge moral issues; rather, they “confronted corrupt regimes and risked the stake and the cross for what they knew to be right.” A “measure of immortality” awaits the “North Carolina minister of today” who will but give himself to the cause of justice and equality.
Goldsboro, North Carolina
October 12, 1961
I appreciate the opportunity of meeting with you on this occasion. To tell you the truth, I think the Southern Regional Council likes for me to attend