Sumter County Alabama

Sumter County
James W. Abert Wright Biography

Contributed by Mary Hoit Abbe

From Northern Alabama, Historical and Biographical by Smith & Deland
Chicago: Donohue & Henneberry, Printers and Binders, 1888
p. 221

JAMES W. ABERT WRIGHT, President of the Alabama Normal College for Girls, and co-principal of Livingston Female Academy, was born at Columbus, Miss., July 28, 1834. His father, the Rev. David Wright, of the Presbyterian Church, came to the South from Massachusetts in 1820, as a missionary to the Choctaw Indians in Mississippi, and, in connection with Revs. Kingsbury and Byington, established headquarters at a place called Mayhew, near Starkville, the present site of the Agricultural College of that State. He was distinguished as a scholar and educator, and devoted to missionary work. His grammar of the Choctaw language, prepared during that period for use in mission schools, is the recognized authority to this day. Franklin Academy, Columbus, Miss., one of the first public schools of the South, was organized by him; and his only surviving daughter, Mrs. Laura E. Eagar, presides over the female department at this writing (March 1888).

Rev. David Wright was many years pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Columbus, and there died in1840, leaving behind him a record that will endure so long as Christian people shall live.

His mother, nee Eliza Abert, was a native of Virginia, her father John Abert, born in Marseilles, France, having come with the French army under La Fayette and Count Rochambeau, in 1781, to aid in our War for Independence. Mrs. Wright was a sister of Colonel John J. Abert, of Washington City, who was for many years at the head of the Topographical Engineers of the United State Army; also, of Col. Charles H. Abert, of the Confederate Army, a prominent citizen of Columbus, Miss.

Major James W. A. Wright became associate Principal of Alabama Normal College for Girls, in September, 1886, and in December following was elected to the position he now fills with distinguished ability in the consolidated institutions.

He began teaching as an assistant to Professor Henry Tutwiler, at Greene Springs, and in 1854, and at the end of one year entered Princeton College, New Jersey, and graduated therefrom in 1857, as valedictorian of his class.

Returning to Greene Springs, he associated himself with Professor Tutwiler and devoted his time thereafter for several years, to teaching in that popular institution.

In May, 1862, Professor Wright raised a company of infantry (Company H), and with it joined the Thirty-sixth Alabama Regiment. Through many terrible engagements in which his regiment participated, Captain Wright led his company, and during the last years of service, frequently commanded his regiment. He left the service at the final surrender with the rank of major.

Company H, that mustered 150 men at the out-set, answered the last roll call at Meridian, Miss., with six names. The rest were mustered into the mighty army of the dead, had been discharged for physical disability, or languished yet in Northern prisons.They had fought at Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Dalton, Peach Tree Creek, Atlanta and through all of Hood’s campaigns up to April 9, 1865, at Spanish Fort, in the final defense of Mobile.

At Missionary Ridge, Captain Wright was severely wounded, and fell into the hands of the enemy. As prisoner of war, he was taken first to Nashville, and from there to Camp Chase Columbus, Ohio. While in transit from Camp Chase, destined to Fort Delaware, he jumped from the train and made his escape, reaching home finally by way of Philadelphia, New York, Canada, the Bermuda Islands, and Wilmington, N. C.

For three years after the war, he was Associate Principal with Professor Tutwiler at Greene Springs.

In August, 1859, Professor Wright married Miss Margaret, the accomplished daughter and eldest child of Professor Tutwiler, at Green Springs. Of the seven children born to them, three are living: Ruffin A., teacher at Livingston Academy, while Julius T. and Henry T., are students thereat. Three died in infancy. Their only daughter, Willie, a brilliant and accomplished young lady, graduate of the Normal College, Livingston, died in August 1883, at Greene Spring. Professor Wright belongs to the Masonic fraternity, and is prominently identified with the Presbyterian Church, having been ordained as an elder in 1867, in Concord Church, Hale County.

In 1868, he removed to California, and there for fifteen years followed farming and insurance business, diversifying his labors in the meantime with journalistic work, and in the advancement of the State Grange, of which he was the first Master, and afterward lecturer.

In 1883, he returned to Alabama, and again became co-principal in Greene Springs School with Professor Tutwiler, in which position he remained until the death of the latter.

In his life-studies and life-work, Prof. Wright has been especially devoted to the Physical Sciences.

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