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J. Marion Wright: Los Angeles' Patient Crusader 1890-1970 - Part 6

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As the second and third generation of Japanese in the United States grew to maturity, a number of these young people became lawyers. They had none of the restrictions and difficulties which their predecessors had faced. They could help their own people. Marion Wright’s work with the Japanese tapered off somewhat but he still retained the respect and trust of his long-time clients and their families and continued to do legal work for them throughout the rest of his life.

J. Marion Wright, ca.1960

After the confusion of the post-war years had subsided, the law practice became diversified. Wright handled a wide variety of clients. He worked for those who had financial struggles and those who had wealth. One of his clients, a Scottish millionaire who was in his nineties at the time, came to the office at regular intervals from his modest home in Orange County bringing donations to the Shriners’ Hospital. He came on the bus. He would carry negotiable bonds worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, in a large flat box, covered over with a layer of camellias for camouflage. Marion had an immigration case for an English sailor who had jumped ship and was about to be deported after twenty years in the United States. Wright saved a church from financial disaster by negotiating with the bank. There were bankruptcies, corporations and estates, adoptions, personal injury cases, calls from people in jail, hospitals needing legal work, even cases of murder. Every phase of human activity one can imagine came through his busy office. Most of these records are gone, as they were stored in a barn at the Wright Leona Valley ranch. The cattle invaded, and many of the papers were destroyed and trampled underfoot. If any record was hard to locate from that time on it was said in his office that “the cow ate it.”

Wright’s mature years were spent practicing law full time. In 1963 he was honored by community leaders and his family at an outdoor fiesta on his ranch. This occasion honored him for being an active attorney for fifty years. By this era the majority of his clients were non-Japanese, and many were associated with the Al Malaikah Shrine. Activities involving his ranches and his horses were his main recreation. He loved the outdoors and each night after his confining day in the city, he saddled his horse for a ride in Griffith Park before dinner.

Alice Wright, ca.1960

He and his wife, Alice, built a new home sixty miles north of Los Angeles in Leona Valley after both of them were over the age of seventy-five. It was to be used as a possible place of retirement but that was not to be. On the Saturday night before his eightieth birthday, his family gave a dinner to honor him. His wife and daughters and their families were the only ones present at this intimate gathering. Marion made a short speech in a humorous vein saying that he had experienced a wonderful life and had done everything he wanted to do. Three days later on his actual birthday after a full day of taking legal depositions for a Japanese corporation, he suffered a massive heart attack and died instantly at the home in Los Angeles where he had lived for twenty-five years.

J. Marion Wright was a man who was loved by all those who knew him. His presence and dignity were impressive yet his sense of humor was always uppermost. His compassion for those who were shy and forgotten endeared him to countless people. He never forgot the Christian principles which he learned as a boy. Honesty, kindness, hard work, and capacity for fun are the characteristics which best describe this very human, loving, and colorful man, J. Marion Wright.

(The End)

* “J. Marion Wright: Los Angeles’ Patient Crusader, 1890–1970” by Janice Marion Wright La Moree was first published in Volume 62, no. 1 (Spring 1990) of the Southern California Quarterly, then reprinted separately in a limited edition that same year.

**All photographs are courtesy of the author.

© 1990 Janice Marion Wright La Moree

attorney biography J. Marion Wright