John Wright Obituary 3/30/18 04/02/18 3:05:43 PM
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John F. Wright
December 24, 1945 – March 18, 2018
Justice Lived Up to His Title
John Wright, originally of Scottsbluff, was a familiar face in the halls of the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln. He should have been – he had been walking those halls for 27 years, 24 of them as a Supreme Court Justice and three years as a judge of the inaugural Nebraska Court of Appeals.
He has been praised by colleagues and state officials on both sides of the aisle as a judge who “made major, positive contributions to the law and to the Nebraska judicial system.”
Chief Justice Mike Heavican issued this statement: “The Justices of the Nebraska Supreme Court are deeply saddened by the announcement of the death of Justice John Wright. He was a much-loved member of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. His loss leaves a great void as our longest serving, most experienced member of the bench. Our deepest condolences to his wife, children, grandchildren and extended family.”
Likewise, Nebraska’s governor, Pete Ricketts, said: “Justice Wright served the people of Nebraska honorably throughout his tenure. He courageously battled illness in recent years as he continued to serve. Susanne, the kids, and I send our thoughts and prayers to the Wright family as they mourn his passing.”
His death this month, after a long, courageous battle with cancer, leaves only one appointee of Democrat Gov. Ben Nelson on the Court – Justice Lindsey Miller-Lerman of Omaha. The rest of the Court has been appointed by Republican Governors Dave Heineman and Pete Ricketts.
“We will miss Justice Wright’s calm ability to identify the controlling issue and ever pleasant manner of delivering his insights,” Justice Miller-Lerman said.
Wright was the longest-serving justice on the current bench, with his colleague William Connolly, who was also appointed in 1994 and retired in 2016, a close second. In fact, only two justices served longer than him: William R. Rose served 34 years from 1909 to 1943 and Leslie Boslaugh served 33 years from 1961 to 1994.
He shared much in common with his Supreme Court colleagues. Like Justice Connolly, he played baseball, Wright for the Huskers and Connolly for the Creighton Bluejays. Like his predecessor, the late Justice Thomas Shanahan (1983-1993), he liked fly-fishing.
He was instrumental in making the Nebraska Court of Appeals a success as one of the first appointees. The work of the appeals court mitigated the long waits in the Supreme Court, thereby assuring prompt justice.
Wright was a 1970 graduate of the University of Nebraska College of Law. He earned his undergraduate degree in biology at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He was a veteran of the U.S. Army and served for six years in the Nebraska National Guard.
He practiced law in Scottsbluff from 1970 to 1991, when he was appointed to the Court of Appeals.
He is survived by his wife, Deborah; four children, Jane Jones, Charlie Wright, John Wright, and Ellen Wright; five grandchildren; and brother Charles Wright.
Memorials are suggested to People’s City Mission, 110 “Q” Street, Lincoln, NE. 68508.
– By Lorraine Boyd
How Others Saw HimThe measure of a man is found in how he is viewed by others. Comments made online after Wright’s death tell a story of intelligence, kindness and honor. A few of their remarks are shared here:
He was an excellent student on top of being a great kid. Even though I am 82, I have a good memory about those sorts of things.
– Douglas Chappell, former teacher
Justice Wright worked with my husband Terry in the state capitol building and they often had lunch together. So when Terry mentioned to Justice Wright that he was getting married Justice Wright offered to perform the service. We had a beautiful wedding performed by him in the Nebraska Supreme Court chambers. We were very grateful for his generosity in making our wedding so special.
– Jan Ford
A very thoughtful, gracious gentlemen and legal scholar has passed from this world. Reverend Sykes, in To Kill A Mockingbird, tells Atticus FInch’s children, Scout, Dill, and Jem to stand after his closing argument, and as Atticus exits the courtroom, says, ”Stand children, your father is passing by.” Justice John Wright deserves no less. My sincere condolences to his family.
– Vincent Valentino
“We had a saying in [our] fraternity that we would hold ourselves to “being men of good character.” John was that and so much more. … I admired from afar his accomplishments as a stellar member of the Nebraska Supreme Court for all those many years. He was loyal, straightforward and honest … an exceptional man, an exceptional friend.
– Steve Davis, Santa Fe, NM
John Wright and I were appointed at the same time to serve on the newly created Nebraska Court of Appeals, and quickly became very good friends. … John was many things to many people. He was a devoted father, husband and friend. He was a smart, thoughtful and hard working judge who leaves a large mark in Nebraska Judicial history. John was also a clever prankster, a great storyteller and although he never was on the Husker football coaching staff, he nonetheless was a dedicated (and opinioned) armchair coach. I will miss his friendship and his death is a significant loss to the Supreme Court and the Nebraska judiciary as a whole.
– Richard Sievers (Nebraska Court of Appeals 1992-2013)
Ellen and I played soccer together as children and John was always a present and a positive influence at practices and games.
– Molly Schwisow
A good man, “the genuine article,” as my dad used to say, and I imagine they’re talking it over now, two old prairie lawyers. Strong sense of direction, kind heart, dry wit, inimitable talent for story telling, delivered with a wry smirk and a twinkling eye.
– Anne Winner
John was indeed “the genuine article” as my old law partner, Frank Winner, used to say. John was a delightful friend and a tough adversary, both in court and across a card table.
– Dennis Arfmann