Rev. Jeremiah Wright is expected to preach on the importance of faith and good deeds Saturday at The Chronicle’s 28th Annual Community Service Awards Gala at the Benton Convention Center.
Wright, pastor emeritus of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, is considered one of the nation’s foremost preaching masters. His words inspired President Barack Obama, one of Wright’s former congregants, to use the words “audacity of hope,” from one of Wright’s sermons, as the title of his bestselling book.
In a letter to Chronicle Publisher Ernie Pitt, Wright said he is excited about his invitation to take part in a “banquet celebrating the awesome work The Chronicle does and those whom The Chronicle will be honoring.”
Wright also praised the Black press and lamented the shrinking print media industry.
“When I see Black newspapers like yours … which are committed to the cause of integrity, justice and honest news reporting, I am encouraged,” the reverend wrote. “Thank you for all that you did to make The Chronicle such a different, distinct and important organ for people of African American descent and for all those in the Winston-Salem area.”
Awards will be presented to 19 local community servants, including Man of the Year Coach Connell Maynor and Woman of the Year Linda Jackson-Barnes. In addition, the legacies of a number of community icons who passed away within the last 12 months will be honored. Mayor Allen Joines and members of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, City Council and Board of Education are expected to be among a crowd of more than 800.
When Wright was made a lightening rod during the 2008 presidential election, longtime members of his flock and friends complained loudly that the public was not allowed to see a full picture of Wright, who interrupted his college education in the early 1960s to join the U.S. Marine Corps. Wright later joined the Navy, where he was trained as a cardiopulmonary tech. He was a member of the Navy medical team charged with treating then-President Lyndon Johnson.
After leaving the military in 1967, Wright earned his undergraduate degree from Howard and two master’s degrees, one in English from Howard and the other from the University of Chicago Divinity School.
The Philadelphia native became pastor of Trinity in 1972. The church was struggling for survival at the time, with only a couple hundred members. Over the next 36 years, Wright would lead a great transformation at the church, growing its membership to nearly 9,000 and making it the largest black congregation in the United Church of Christ.
Wright, a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, is married to Ramah Reed Wright. The couple have five children. Since retiring from the pulpit in early 2008, Wright has been a popular guest lecturer and speaker.
See a full list of award winners on page B7. Tickets to the gala, which begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 23, are $25 and are available by calling 336-722-8524 or at The Chronicle’s office, 617 N. Liberty St.