A ritual of sprints followed on the track below.
One day, I was there as a team of Haverhill High athletes appeared. They took one look at this jettison in motion and gasped.
“Who is that man?” an incredulous teen queried.
“Billy Wright,” I said. “Dr. Wright to you.”
“We could use a guy like that on our team,” came the reply.
“He’s in his 70s,” I tried explaining. “You should have seen his son play football.”
I was on the sidelines one afternoon covering a Haverhill High football game. Wally Wright was playing end. His parents were in the stands, along with a few thousand other people on this crisp autumn Saturday.
Wally flew down the sidelines toward the end zone and made a brilliant one-handed catch with his back to the ball for a touchdown, much the way Randy Moss did for the Patriots.
If you didn’t catch his obituary, Billy was not only a gifted athlete, but a proficient educator as well. He set a fine example for his kids and others. After graduating from Haverhill High in 1953, he put his own football aspirations aside and worked his way toward degrees in higher education.
At a time when such education was at a premium, especially for members of the black community, Billy Wright blazed new trails for his generation.
While working for Western Electric, he went to Salem State for his master’s degree and secured his doctorate from Boston University. Local folks will remember him for his years spent teaching physical education at Nettle School and the classes he taught at Northern Essex Community College.
Few were better ambassadors with the Haverhill Boys Club and the work that involved him as director of the Neighborhood Youth Corps. Or with the NAACP. Had Billy ever met the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at a rally, the respect for one another’s vigilance would have been mutual.