James Bryant Wright
Sept. 1, 1923-Feb. 16, 2019
Rev. J. Bryant Wright passed away peacefully in his sleep, in the presence of his children, on Saturday, February 16, 2019 at his residence in Davis, California. He was 95 years old.
Born on Sept. 1st, 1923, in Presque Isle, Maine, Bryant received acclaim at both school and church as a boy soprano. He found solace at church and loved the outdoors. He learned to skate at 3, and spent winters sledding with his dog, Wolf. Bryant also kept busy with Boy Scouts, a paper route and school. In church, each Sunday, he sang tenor with a quartet and served as youth leader. Graduating from Presque Isle High School in 1942, he became the first member of his family to attend and graduate from college. He received his Bachelor of Divinity from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Overbrook, Pennsylvania in 1949 and his Master’s from Temple University in Philadelphia in the following years.
There, while working as a young minister at the Oxford Circle Baptist Church, he met and eventually married Jane Audrey Perkins of Philadelphia. The two were married for 58 years until Jane’s passing in 2014. Following their wedding in 1955, the couple honeymooned across the country and settled in the Bay Area, where Bryant took the position of Director of Christian Education and Camping on behalf of the American Baptist Churches of the West. In 1964, Bryant and Jane settled in Menlo Park where he served for four years as the Senior Minister at the First Baptist Church of Menlo Park, California and later as the Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church of San Carlos, a position he held for more than 27 years.
Bryant’s love of the outdoors as a child and young man was best exemplified by his early work with the American Baptist Churches of the West, which was seeking to establish a summer and weekend retreat near Half Moon Bay. In his position, Bryant negotiated the purchase of a 160-acre site and subsequently oversaw the planning and construction of the Redwood Glen Baptist Camp and Conference Center, which celebrated it’s 60th anniversary last year. Bryant served many years as the Redwood Glen Camp Director for Outdoor and Youth Education.
As a member of the Ladera Oaks Swim and Tennis Club from 1970 to 2008, he served for over a decade as the announcer at Ladera’s summer swim meets. Known as the “Golden Voice of the Green Machine,” he loved interacting with the swimmers, coaches and parents. Ardent swimmers, Bryant and Jane became fixtures with the Ladera Oaks Masters Swim Team.
Bryant was also a long-time member of the San Carlos Rotary Club and was involved in the organization’s many community service endeavors.
As a child and young man, Bryant loved music and was an accomplished soloist. Later in life, he enjoyed singing with the Masterworks Chorale, with which he and his daughter, Meg, performed in concerts both abroad and in the U.S., including a performance at Carnegie Hall in New York. He attributed his path into the clergy to his love for music and using his voice to glorify God. “Music is the wonderful fiber woven through my life and it has always made it good,” he said.
Bryant was preceded in death by his wife, Jane Audrey Wright, his parents, James Wiley and Blanche Anne, and his brother, Wayne Ellsworth. Bryant is survived by his three children, Jamey Wright and his wife, Nancy, of Davis, Meg Knight and her husband, Andy, of Bend, Oregon, and Doug Wright and his wife, Lori, of Davis. Bryant is also survived by his sister, Barbara St. Michaels, of Kalispell, Montana, and his nephew, Peter Wright, and nieces Annabelle Matthews, Sharon Pillsbury, Lise Teilmann and Gail Irons. Bryant is also survived by his 10 grandchildren: Michael, Hailey and Cameron Wright of Davis, Ben and Becky Knight of Bend, and Malaya, Luke, Aubrey, Landon, and Payton Wright, also of Davis.
A Celebration of Life service will be held at 4pm on March 23, 2019, with a reception following at the First Baptist Church of San Carlos at 787 Walnut St, San Carlos, California. A second service will be held on Sunday March 24, 2019 at 2 pm at University Retirement Community in Davis at 1515 Shasta Drive.
Donations can be made in Bryant’s name to Redwood Glen Camp and Conference Center and/or UC Davis Athletics – Women’s Water Polo Development Account.