February 1, 2017

by Rosalin Moss

The Mississippi Club





Ella Dean Wright, the woman behind Early Wright


It was by chance that I got to meet Mrs. Ella Dean Wright, wife of Early "Soul Man" Wright, the first Black radio announcer in Mississippi.  In August of 2011, an acquaintance of mine asked my help with a trip to Clarksdale, and since I was always ready for a road trip to Mississippi, I agreed to assist.  My acquaintance planned to talk with Mrs. Wright about her husband, Early Wright, and I was happy to tag along because I had been promised that I could take a few photographs.  Well, I didn't get any photographs because Mrs. Wright was not dressed  for photographs; so, my reward for taking the trip was getting to sit and listen to the conversation.  As I sat there and listened to them talk about Mr. Wright, I was wishing I could hear more about Ella Wright herself. 


It was my intention to come back to Clarksdale at a later date and talk with Mrs. Wright myself.  I knew this lady had a lot of stories to tell about the days when she was the wife of a popular radio personality.  What I found most intriguing was, although Early Wright was the famous one, Ella Wright was the loving and supportive force that helped Mr. Wright become who he was.  I wanted to hear more about this woman, who at 15 captured the heart of the future "Soul Man". 


Mrs. Wright did give me permission to take a picture of a photograph of her an Early Wright when they were young and newly married.  Ella Wright had been absolutely gorgeous and it was easy to see why Early married her,  and why they enjoyed fifty-one years of marriage until his death on December 10, 1999.  I sensed that she loved her husband very much, even now, and was very proud of him.  And, she was diligent in protecting Early Wright's name and preventing others from profiting from his legend.  She talked about a time when she had come across someone selling framed pictures of her husband at $400 a pop, and she shut it down.  Yes, Mrs. Ella Wright was still being a supportive force for the great Early Wright.


She was a gracious host that day, and I got nothing but good vibes from her hospitable gestures.  She was in a wheelchair then, plump and dressed in a simple house duster, her gray hair pulled back into a ponytail.  But the beauty was still there in her face, and I'm sure that if she had been "dressed", she would have been stunning still. 


I would love to reveal more about what Ella Dean Wright said that day, but it was not my interview, so I will not.  And, I regret to say that I never got a chance to talk with her again before she died on April 14, 2012.  I really wanted to write about her.  And, I have not been able to find anything online about her, only things about her husband.  It is a shame no one interviewed the woman behind the legend.  What a pity. 


I am glad that I got a chance to meet Ella Dean Wright at all, and this is my tribute to her and her devotion to her beloved Early Wright.  "He took care of me," is what Ella said.  "He didn't care what I bought or how much I bought."  From all that was said in the conversation that day, it was clear that Mrs. Wright took care of Mr. Wright also.  She enjoyed talking about her husband that day, remembering the good days.  She said she missed him.


Ella was preceded in death by two daughters and her husband. 




--Rosalin Moss aka Mississippi Traveler

February 1, 2017