David Edgar Wright, Jr., 79, left this world surrounded by his loved ones on February 2, 2023 after nearly five years battling three forms of cancer and 25 years with Type 1 diabetes. He was born in Fort Riley, Kansas on August 10, 1943 to Marguerite Etta Conklin Wright and David Edgar Wright, Sr.
From an early age, David was a caregiver to all, including his four younger siblings while his dad served in the army and his mother was a night nurse. His independence emerged fully when at 16 years old he decided to live on his own when the rest of the family moved on to the next military post. Despite navigating the world on his own at such a young age, David excelled academically and socially at Brackettville High School and then college.
When Laura Darleen McDonald met David while working during the summer at the legendary Fort Clark Dude Ranch, David was in charge of managing the ranch and office, taking the guests horseback-riding, driving the bus to Mexico and surrounding areas, running the liquor store, checking in guests, fixing cars (including those of several famous politicians and movie stars), and life-guarding (even without the ability to swim at the time). Darleen said that David was the smartest, kindest, cutest, and most hard-working person she had ever met, “a wise 40 year old man in the body of a 19 year old Texas Aggie.” She was dating his best friend/roommate when David caught her full attention. She knew she had to break her rule of not dating anyone shorter than she was as soon as she got to know him.
David and Darleen got married August 31, 1963 and went on to have David Edgar Wright III and Dionne Terrell Wright who he taught to question authority, check and verify, research and quantify, and think independently. His unconditional love and support allowed his children to make their own choices even when he didn’t necessarily agree with said choices. He displayed a whole new, unexpected side of his personality when blessed with five grandchildren. Soon “Papa” joined in on a plethora of UNO games, sporting events, tea parties, Elmo dances, Hokey Pokey, dress up, naps, volunteering at the schools, reading the same books as the kids, book fairs, and giving “rabbit ears” to the grandkids at every single opportunity presented. Even if a grandchild’s name was to be announced on the intercom at school, Papa was there. David and Darleen surprised everyone by leaving their home of 37 years in Weatherford to move to Oklahoma City to live closer to their grandkids (and children).
Professionally, David spent decades dedicating his time to advance the Civil Rights movement in Texas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. Additionally, he served numerous philanthropic organizations, such as volunteering with “lifer” inmates sentenced to 35 years to life, helping to start the League of Women Voters to protect and expand voting rights, and preventing drug use in youth, even earning a Humanitarian award from Western Oklahoma charities.
David’s teaching career included several years at Texas A&M (his alma mater) and Mississippi State and then decades at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford. During his lifetime, he impacted thousands of students’ lives, challenging them to reach their fullest potential. Countless students have told us that David changed their lives, enabled them to see the world differently, and caused them to learn new perspectives. Students certainly learned the foundations of sociology and criminology but also grew their empathy and understanding of the world—not just Western Oklahoma’s point of view.
Those who knew David could attest to the fact that he lived a life of humble service, serving anyone in need without the expectation of recognition. Serving others was his lifetime mission—starting with his siblings and mother moving to his wife and family and then his students, neighbors, and everyone he encountered. Never did David act out of a sense of obligation or duty or for glory but instead it was his essence, his core.
David was preceded in death by his beloved brother, Robert “Bobby” Wright, his cherished nephew Robley Frank McClellan, and Rob’s dad, Reid McClellan. He is survived by his treasured wife of 59 years, Darleen Wright, his prized Corvette of 16 years, his children David Wright and Lisa, and Dionne Wright Liebl and Darell Dunagan, and grandchildren Logan, Evan, and Morgan Wright, and Laura and Laney Liebl, and sister-in-law Marcia Wright, sister Lillian Wright Futch and Harry, brother O.W. “Audie” Wright and Doni, sister Laurie Wright Cauduro and Jim, and in-laws Roland and Harriett McDonald, and Jessie McClellan, and many other family members and friends.
A celebration of life will be held at North MacArthur Church of Christ in Oklahoma City on Friday, February 10 at 11 am. Those who wish to remember David in a meaningful way may make gifts in his memory to either the Rob McClellan Memorial Scholarship Fund in care of the Terrell County (Texas) Independent School District (to the attention of Sandra Davis) or to the American Cancer Society at cancer.org.