Rep. Lynn Wright, 69, died Friday morning in Tuscaloosa from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Wright represented District 37, which includes Lowndes and Clay counties and a portion of Oktibbeha County, as a Republican since 2020, when he won a special election to fill the unexpired term of Gary Chism, who had retired the previous June.
He will be better known locally for his 45 years as a coach, teacher, principal and school superintendent and for the grace he exhibited at multiple crossroads of his life.
Wright served as principal at New Hope High School from 2008-2010 and was elected to consecutive four-year terms as Superintendent of the Lowndes County School District in 2011 and 2015.
When the legislature changed the school superintendent selection from election to appointment, Wright applied for the job, but was not chosen among the finalists by the LCSD Board of Trustees in 2019. Instead the board appointed New Hope Middle School principal Sam Allison as superintendent.
“(Lynn) was a great friend who truly saw the best in everyone and everything,” Allison said. “The impact he had on the people he knew is unmeasurable. He will always be remembered for his kindness, passion and service. He was a man of faith who loved God, his family and others in a way that will always inspire me.”
LCSD attorney Jeff Smith gave Wright high marks for his work as superintendent.
“He was an excellent superintendent and probably the most people-oriented person I’ve ever met,” Smith said. “He was loved by the faculty and the kids.”
Wright’s tenure as New Hope High principal ended abruptly in 2010 when he, along with the school’s baseball coach, were fired for what the Board of Trustees said was unauthorized purchases for the baseball program. Wright successfully sued the district for wrongful termination, a judgment that was later overturned by the court of appeals.
In 2011, only months after his termination, Wright was elected as the LCSD Superintendent, but if he viewed his election as vindication, he never expressed it.
In 2019, when Wright was not chosen by the Board of Trustees for the superintendent’s job, he also handled the disappointment with grace.
“He was a great man,” said Rep. Dana McLean (R, Columbus) who served with Wright in the House of Representatives for two sessions, often driving to Jackson together. “I really got to know him as a person this last year. He was a strong Christian and it seemed like those values were evident in the way he treated people and how he thought about decisions that he made for his constituents.”
Above all else, McLean said, was the grace he exhibited.
“I heard the stories about some of the things that happened to him from his own mouth,” McLean said. “He was wronged and wasn’t to blame, but when he was fired he just moved on and forgave those who wronged him. He never held a grudge. Really, he was just one of the kindest people you would ever meet.”
After learning he would not be retained as LCSD superintendent, Wright turned his attention to state politics, winning the special election in October 2020 as District 37 representative.
In a statement released Friday, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn noted that while Wright’s tenure was short, it was impactful.
“Although his service to our state was sadly cut too short, Lynn Wright accomplished much for the people he represented in District 37 during a time of unheard-of challenges for all Mississippians,” Gunn said. He indelibly made his mark on his state and all those he served with in the Mississippi House. My prayers are with his family, his friends, and his community. Lynn will be greatly missed.”
With his passing, the second special election to fill Chism’s original term, which ends in 2023, will be announced by Governor Tate Reeves.
That special election is expected to be on the ballot as part of the regular election in November.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]