Wright, James L. "Jimmy"(born: February 15, 1919 - died: July 25, 1999)
James L. Wright was born in Russellville, KY, the son of James L. Wright Sr. and Mary Moody Wright. James Jr.'s union work began at a Kentucky equipment factory when he returned from the service at the end of World War II. His initial duties were sweeping and cleaning, typical jobs assigned to African American employees, but he advanced to forklift operator.
The factory had a union that was just being initiated, and James Wright, Jr. became a union leader to help other African Americans advance in the company. He was a member of the National Negro Labor Council (NNLC) in Louisville, KY. His work was perceived as subversive, and he was accused of being a Communist.
Wright eventually left Kentucky for Chicago to become a full-time union organizer. In 1980, he was the first African American elected to head region 4 of the United Auto Workers (UAW), which included Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. Wright was also the president of the UAW's political arm in Illinois and headed the regional civil rights department. He received threatening phone calls during his campaign for office but persevered. He was re-elected but had to step down in 1984 due to health problems.
For more see L. Forte, "James Wright, former UAW leader," Chicago Sun-Times, 7/28/1999, p. 74; the state of Illinois Senate Resolution, 91st General Assembly; and Jimmy Wright in the film The Freedom Train, by Kingberry Productions & WDIV-TV.