James W. Wright was an American businessman and entrepreneur. He was a visionary leader with acute business acumen. Despite being hailed as a uniquely gifted banker with keen financial prowess, Wright’s true genius was his ability to recognize the worth of the most precious and valuable assets – PEOPLE.
He was born and raised in Norristown, PA just outside of Philadelphia, PA on May 7, 1943. He passed away on December 18, 2010.
He was the founder and chairman | chief executive officer of First Tuskegee Bank. In 1991, Wright purchased the former Tuskegee Federal Savings & Loan, which opened its doors on the campus of historic Tuskegee Institute, now, Tuskegee University, in 1894. Through his leadership, the bank more than tripled its assets, and expanded to two Montgomery locations. The Bank was the first African-American owned bank to operate in the city of Montgomery. Until the bank was sold in 2015, it was the oldest minority-owned, continuously operating financial institution in the United States.
Previously, Wright served as president and chief executive officer of Beneficial National Bank, a subsidiary of Beneficial Corporation (acquired by HSBC), in Wilmington, Delaware, where the company’s growth in assets was nearly ten-fold in a ten-year period. A trailblazer while at Beneficial, Wright was only one of two African-Americans in the country that served as president of a successful majority-owned banking institution. Previous to that, he served in numerous positions of increasing responsibility in the banking industry with the Delaware Trust Company and Girard Trust, the predecessor to Mellon Bank.
Wright was a graduate of Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania.
He served as a member of the board of directors of Alabama Power Company, The Children’s Health Systems of Alabama, The Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, Boy Scouts of America, Tuskegee Macon County Headstart, Tuskegee Area Chamber of Commerce, Tuskegee Area YMCA and Tuskegee University just to name a few. He was also a lifetime member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
Though not a native of the south, Wright possessed the characteristics of a true “Authentic Leader” and “Alabamian”, as he embraced and personified everything that is good and decent about the State of Alabama and its people. He was willing to work hard, take calculated risks and to follow his heart and finely tuned instincts to build an institution whose hallmark was to provide world-class service to its clients. He believed in fairness, honesty and quality. He often said, “we really just want to do things the right way, and excellence is what we all should strive for.”