William Kinley ‘Bill’ Wright was born on July 8, 1934 on the north side of Pittsburgh, PA. His childhood was occupied with family, Boy Scouts, and a newspaper route (for 10 years). He attended Penn State College, participated in the Air Force ROTC, and applied for admission to the Naval Academy. Upon learning that he was 73rd on the list of applicants, he switched to the West Point candidate list, which only had 10 applicants. Bill won the appointment to West Point.
With one year’s experience of industrial engineering and coming from a very disciplined family, Bill had no difficulty managing Beast Barracks and plebe year. Because of his unusual marching gait, he picked up the nickname of ‘lope lope.’ During his plebe year, the First Class Hundredth Night Show needed female “extras” (there were no women cadets), so Bill and Bob Faulkender volunteered. His four-year, F-2 Company assignment built solid friendships, and his West Point experience of Duty, Honor, Country developed a lifetime of service and contribution to our great country.
At the Academy, Bill earned top grades and helped companymates after hours in the barrack’s “sinks” with their studies. He played varsity soccer until a broken ankle in his cow year sidelined him. On the Academy Debate team, he and F-2 companymate Walt Pritchard captured numerous intercollegiate titles.
A fog-grounded Eastern Airlines plane in Pittsburgh caused Bill to be late returning from yearling summer leave. Despite an apologetic, explanatory letter from CEO Eddie Rickenbaker, the Commandant’s Board applied demerits, awarded punishment tours on the area, and reduced him in rank from corporal to private. Being the first person in his class to be “busted” in rank, this was not a good start for cow year! Fortunately, the king and queen of The Netherlands were visiting USMA late that fall and granted cadet amnesty in time for Bill to attend the Army–Navy football game in Philadelphia.
Singing and traveling with the Glee Club was a relaxing interlude from academics. Graduation was notable because the class was subject to “arrest in quarters” following “breaking ranks” at the graduation parade, counter to specific orders from the Superintendent. A large number of the class attempted to carry on “tradition,” but graduation day was confusion for cadets, parents, and friends alike. The moniker ‘Black ’57’ followed the class throughout military careers.
Bill chose Signal Corps as his branch choice. After the Signal Officer basic training course at Fort Monmouth, NJ and Airborne and Ranger Schools at Fort Benning, GA, and prior to being posted to the 34th Signal Battalion, VII Corps, United States Army Europe, he married Elfriede Neumann Masters.
Initially a construction company platoon leader, he was promoted to captain and company commander. A TDY assignment took him to Beirut, Lebanon in 1958 to support the VII Corps communication activities. It became apparent that a lack of Farsi and Arabic-speaking military personnel and knowledge of the Middle-Eastern culture were significant hindrances in the Lebanese operation, so Bill recommended that a Department of the Army program be set up to specialize in these areas. The DA response denied the recommendation, which Bill then forwarded to his Pennsylvania senator. The DA response to the senator repeated their initial position. Following the Signal Corps Officers Advanced Training School at Fort Monmouth, NJ, he was assigned as associate professor ROTC at Northeastern University, where he was the Pershing Rifles OIC and started a long-range, reconnaissance, patrol-type activity for the cadets. For both personal and professional reasons, in 1963, Bill submitted his Regular Army resignation to the Fort Devens, MA commanding officer.
Bill joined Sylvania Electronic Systems in Waltham, MA as an engineering coordinator for the MPQ32 project, which was creating a gyroscopic cannon platform for armored vehicles. He became deputy project manager for the RONDO program sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The project developed a state-of-the-art system for the detection of intercontinental ballistic missiles using radar-detected, re-entry wake characteristics—the precursor to the “Star Wars” phenomena. During this time, Bill studied at night for his MBA at Northeastern University.
He was employed by Fluid Dynamics in New Jersey and by Cresap, McCormick & Paget, a consulting firm in New York City. Bill then arranged mortgage financing for commercial builders and developers and acquired his New Jersey real estate broker’s license. Bill’s F-2 roommate, Dick Murtland, introduced him to Kepner-Tregoe, a Princeton, NJ business development firm, where he facilitated client strategy. He remained there until starting his personal business, NFN, Inc., which he maintained for 30 years in New Jersey and then in Houston, TX.
In 1985, Bill met Anne Gready Rice through a mutual friend living in Houston. They married and resided in West Houston for 22 years. Bill developed a beachfront subdivision on Galveston Island, conducted strategy and business development workshops, and mortgage banking activities focused on ARM portfolio audits. He and Anne were active at Houston’s Second Baptist Church, and they traveled extensively, including multiple, lengthy visits to Sri Lanka serving as International Executive Service Corps volunteers formulating business development strategies for local companies.
They purchased a hilltop farm in Praha, TX (100 miles west of Houston), where they retired and lived in “country bliss.” While active in nearby Flatonia Baptist Church, in politics, and community events, Bill’s first passion was to glorify God and Jesus Christ in his life; his second was to love his wife and family of 4 children, 10 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. He loved and thrived in all of life’s adventures. May it be said “Well Done,” and he knows he’ll see y’all in Glory Land!