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Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

William Wright

Thursday, August 8, 2002

CAPE GIRARDEAU - William Perry Wright Jr., 90, died Aug. 6, 2002, in Cape Girardeau.

Born July 28, 1912, in Charleston, son of the late William Perry and Blanche Hadassah Mitchell Wright, he graduated in 1930 from Charleston High School and attended St. Louis University, the University of Missouri and Tulane University.

Wright was one of the earliest citizen-soldiers to be called into the service for World War II. He was called up in 1939 and sent to Fort Sill, Okla., where he trained as an artillery officer. When Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, he was on a troop ship bound for the Philippines. Fortunately, the ship was recalled and he was sent to Camp Livingston, La., to train new artillery units. He was promoted in 1943 to the rank of major and was selected to become the executive officer of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion of the newly-formed 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The 442nd was the famed "Go For Broke" regiment of Japanese-Americans that made history as the most decorated U.S. military unit in World War II. Wright's unit was involved in the heat of the major battles in Italy, France, Belgium and Germany. Crossing the Rhine with Patton's Third Army, his unit then discovered and liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

His education was interrupted by World War II, but after the war Wright completed his law studies and was admitted to the Missouri Bar Association. Between World War II and the Korean War, he practiced law with the Joslyn and Joslyn Law Firm in Charleston.

When the Korean War started, he was recalled into the Army and sent to form and train the 77th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion. Initially formed as a battalion of African-American soldiers, he had another unique experience in American history, leading his unit through the difficulties of integration and then participating in the nuclear tests at Nevada Flats. This was followed by service in Korea, Japan and other locations around the world. He retired as a colonel in 1967 and settled in Jefferson City, where he was director of the Missouri Board of Liquor Control, serving under Gov. Warren Hearnes.

He was active in the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Association of Japanese-American War Veterans, Missouri Bar Association and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

His wife of 64 years, Ernestine Gilmore Wright, survives.

Also surviving are three sons, William Randolph Wright of Sammamish, Wash., James Riley Wright of Longview, Wash., and Russell Gilmore Wright of Linden, Texas; his daughter, Juanita Elisabeth Allen of Alexandria, Va.; his brother, Henry Daniel Wright of Mountain Home, Ark.; and six grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by two sisters, Elisabeth Crenshaw and Mary Lou Lanza.

Visitation is from 10 a.m. Saturday until service time at 11 a.m. at the First Christian Church of Charleston. The Rev. Bert Ott, pastor, will officiate.

U.S. Army personnel from Fort Leonard Wood in Waynesville will conduct military graveside rites at the IOOF Cemetery near Charleston.

McMikle Funeral Home of Charleston is in charge of arrangements.

Paid obituary