Crispus (Cris) Attucks Wright, a retired Los Angeles civil attorney, has given the USC Law School a $2 million cash gift to establish the Wright Scholarship Endowment.
The Wright Scholarship Endowment will provide financial support for academically qualified and financially deserving African American students and others interested in practicing law in under-represented communities.
The gift is the largest ever made by an African American to USC. It is also the second-largest contribution made by an African American to a law school in the United States.
“Cris Wright”s gift is a remarkable contribution to the Law School and, indeed, to the entire university,” said USC President Steven B. Sample. “His is an inspired and inspiring act of philanthropy that honors one of America”s great law schools. Mr. Wright”s gift is an incomparable affirmation of the cultural diversity that defines USC.”
Named after Crispus Attucks, a free black man who in 1770 was the first casualty of the American Revolution, Wright was imbued with a sense of his African American heritage by his parents. An older brother was named Booker T. Wright. Wright”s father – born into slavery in Louisiana and a graduate of Leland University, an early black college – was a teacher and high school principal who stressed to his children the importance of an education.
By 1928, young Crispus Wright”s interest in law and civil rights had become apparent.
While attending Manual Arts High School just south of USC, Wright would often visit the Los Angeles County Courthouse to observe lawyers arguing cases. There he witnessed the work of Willis O. Tyler, then the city”s most prominent black litigator. Family friend Bert McDonald, a 1923 graduate of the USC Law School, further encouraged Wright to study law.
Wright went on to USC to earn his B.A. in political science in 1936 and his L.L.B. in 1938. An older brother and sister also attended USC, as did Wright”s son, Warner Wright III.
“I feel a deep obligation to the USC Law School,” Wright said. “The professors – as well as many of my classmates – brought out the best in me and made me work at my optimum level. I am both proud and glad that my contribution will help make the Law School more accessible to talented students.”
“Cris Wright”s gift is a splendid addition to our student aid resources,” said Scott H. Bice, dean of the Law School. “I know that in expressing deep appreciation to him, I speak for generations of students who will benefit from his generosity. We are also gratified by the support his gift provides to USC”s commitment to educating students who will provide legal services to all segments of our society.”
In 1940, Wright established a civil law practice at Central and Vernon Avenues in South-Central Los Angeles. He closed his office in Beverly Hills in 1987, after nearly 50 years in the legal profession.
In 1943, Wright co-founded the John M. Langston Bar Association of Los Angeles. The Langston Association remains the principal black legal association in the Los Angeles area. He is a member of the National Bar Association, the American Bar Association and the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
Apart from his legal practice, Wright also owned and operated a number of businesses in the Los Angeles area and was formerly chairman of the board of Southern California”s oldest continuously published black newspaper, the Los Angeles Sentinel.