Monday, January 28, 2019
As we celebrate a national holiday commemorating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Timothy Wright III ’77, lawyer, public servant, theologian, and activist asks who, really, do we celebrate? Is it the gentle Dr. King of “I have a dream” where he saw black kids, white kids, and brown kids walking hand in hand? Or was it the Dr. King, who in the same speech, admonished the unspeakable horrors of police brutality inflicted on black people? Or will we celebrate the Dr. King whom Dr. James Cone calls America’s greatest theologian, asserting, “If theology is a disciplined endeavor to interpret the meaning of the gospel for the present time, and if the gospel is God’s liberation of the poor from bondage, then I would claim that no one has articulated the Christian message of freedom more effectively, prophetically, and creatively in America than Martin Luther King, Jr.” Will the real Dr. King please stand up!
Timothy W. Wright III '77 was born and raised in Compton and attended Compton High School. As student body president, Wright served as student representative to the Compton Unified School Board of Trustees. A varsity football player, he served as "Helm's Hall of Fame" scholar-athlete in his senior year before attending Claremont Men’s College.
As the first in his family to attend college, Wright points to the inspiration of Dr. King Jr. as his greatest and seminal inspiration for attending college and law school. Wright strove to become an asset to the campaign for human rights and justice that Dr. King would come to symbolize.
At Claremont Mens’ College, Wright researched and wrote his senior thesis entitled, "Indicators of Underdevelopment: A Case Study of the Angolan Economy." During law school, as a student activist in the anti-apartheid movement, Wright worked with the United Nations on legal matters pertaining to the independence of several African countries. As a lawyer, Wright participated in the constitutional negotiations in Cape Town, South Africa, that led to the release of Nelson Mandela. Wright also served as a legal participant with the U.N. Council for Namibia and as an international election monitor for South Africa's first free elections where he was assigned to monitor the elections in the Western Cape teaming with Nigerian President Obasanjo of Nigeria and New York Mayor David Dinkins.
Wright served as special counsel and director of intergovernmental affairs for former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and was commissioner of the department of economic development for the City of Chicago under two administrations. Wright has also served as President Bill Clinton’s first director of domestic policy and in various capacities in the administrations of Presidents Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. He also served as chief of staff for Congressman Bobby L. Rush.
Wright was a director for the Southern African Economic Development Fund along with Ambassador Andrew Young and was a director of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. He has also served as chairman of the Sub-Saharan African Advisory Committee of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.
In January 2010, Wright was one of the winners in Politico magazine’s second annual “Reed Awards,” which are presented to “political and public affairs professionals at the top of their game,” according to the magazine. Wright was an award recipient in the special category, “Best Bare-Knuckled Street Fight Victory,” for his work, as Illinois senator Roland Burris’ lead attorney, in getting the U.S. Senate to allow Burris to obtain his appointed U.S. Senate seat.
Wright received a dual degree both in political science and economics from Claremont Mens’ College in 1977; a Juris Doctor from UCLA School of Law in 1983; a Masters of Divinity degree from the Chicago Theological Seminary in May 2018; he is currently studying for his Doctorate in Ministry Degree. He is a member of the Prophetic Leader Cohort at McCormick Theological Seminary, specializing in Liberation Ecclesiology, faith-based community economic development in urban communities.
Mr. Wright will deliver the 2019 Martin Luther King, Jr., Commemorative Lecture.
Food for Thought: Podcast with Tim Wright