(Left to right) Joe Terry of "Danny & the Juniors" and Nat Wright
Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Luncheon
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
During 2004, Broadcast Pioneers member Nat Wright wrote his own bio:
I was born in a bungalow in Baltimore Maryland December 10, 1926 … delivered by a medical intern substituting for both grandfathers, doctors busy making emergency house calls. Said intern forgot to administer the time-honored slap to my posterior, leaving me temporarily and uncharacteristically quiet and blue.
I was bequeathed the family heirloom full name Nathaniel Van Wert Wright IV. Parents: Nathaniel V.W. Wright III and Catherine Hoyt Wright. Sisters: Patricia Hoyt Wright (1928) and Bonnie Lynn Wright (1940).
My family moved regionally, following employment opportunities, during the Great Depression and pre-WWII from Baltimore to Sparrows Point MD to the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay and finally to the Washington DC area, where I did my senior semester at Anacostia High School in DC in 1944.
I served a tour of duty with the US Marine Corps in the latter part of WWII … no distinctions, no demerits …island-hopping in the Pacific and, later, with the Second Marine Division, landing in Japan as part of the occupation force. I walked, an awe-struck teenager, through A-bomb rubble in Nagasaki and then patrolled the rural countryside. The local villagers were terrified of Marines, but trusted me because, at 5’5”, I did not appear to be a threat. My daughter Beth obtained for me, in 1996, the Navy Occupation Service Medal with Asia clasp for this part of my military service.
Taking advantage of the GI Bill, I attended Washington College, Chestertown MD (1946-48) and American University Washington DC (1948-50). My political science major gained me employment as an editorial researcher (polite term for library or morgue clerk) at the old Washington Evening Star where, in the Cold War era, I was thrilled to assist renowned journalists such as Elmer Davis and Mary McGrory to dig through the archives (1948-51).
I was bitten by the broadcast bug in early 1951, when radio was still the dominant broadcast medium, although TV was swiftly rising. I launched a span of over 41 years on the air starting BRR (Before Rock & Roll), ending surrounded by RRR (Realm of Raucous Rock) in late 1992 … along the way working in all major music formats plus news.
I labored and learned though the hungry years at small radio stations from Hagerstown MD to Dover DE to Reading PA to Alexandria VA … finally landing more nourishing on-air fare at WWDC-Am and WTTG-TV, both in DC.
I made a major career and life change in 1961, joining both personality and news lineups at WIP Radio in Philadelphia, where I gained the great experience of working with the legendary Joe McCauley, morning icon Ken Garland, longtime close buddy Wee Willie Webber, fellow shortie Tom Moran, tall Tom Lamaine and quintessential news pro John Paul Weber. In 1967 I was tapped to be host of the second-oldest all-night radio show in the nation, WIP’s Dawn Patrol, once famously hosted by Joe McCauley and named after the hit 1930s movie. Because the time slot fit well with outside activities and also gave me much leeway for program innovation, I remained on-air pilot for 17 years, making me the longest-lasting host of the Dawn Patrol. I was grounded, along with the show, in 1984, when WIP began its switch to an all-talk, eventually all-sports, format.
I then briefly dabbled in argumentative talk at WWDB-FM, wrapping up my eclectic itinerary in balloon-stuffing with a morning radio show in Trenton NJ. Other concurrent local gigs included doing voice-overs and fill-ins at Philadelphia channels 48 and 29 in the 70s, along with teaching broadcasting at a Center City vocational school (now defunct, although I didn’t kill it off).
Professional organizations: 56-year (as of 2009) member of AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists AFL-CIO), Philadelphia Local recording Secretary for 28 years (for which service Nat received AFTRA’s prestigious Silver Card in 1996), long-time contributing writer for local and national AFTRA publications; member, Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia.
Personal: 55 years ago, in Reading PA, I took leave as host of live WEEU broadcasts of Shorty Long and the Santa Fe Rangers long enough to marry home-towner Sue Young a radiology technician who has always been able to see through me without Roentgen rays. Headline developments of the merger are three daughters … Beth, Ruth and Amy … four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
After my retirement, while wife Sue was senior tour director at Christ Church in Philadelphia, she recruited me as a volunteer history tour guide for the Second and Market Streets church, a National Historic Landmark, where George and Martha Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris and Betsy Ross, along with their families, were among the famous parishioners of our nation’s Colonial and Federal years. The 18-year experience, part of nearly a lifetime of oral presentation and people involvement, was unsurpassed in personal fulfillment.
Community involvement: 48 years (as of 2009) a member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Glenside, where wife Sue and I have long been lay ministers;
1970-72 co-president with wife Sue of Glenside-Weldon PTA (Nat was a most popular PTA president who recruited many guys to the PTA Board by promising Monday night board meetings would conclude within an hour to accommodate TV’s then-Monday Night Football fans).
Since the mid-1960s, as parents of a mentally challenged daughter, Ruth, later diagnosed as autistic, my wife and I have been involved with appropriate issues as members of state and local units of the Association for Retarded Citizens and family groups at residential and workshop facilities. Over the years, I hosted entertainment functions for the Eastern Montco Jaycees, the nation’s first such chapter for mentally challenged members.
Nat Wright had been a main stay at WIP Radio for decades. He came to Philly in August of 1961 from WWDC, Washington, DC. In Washington, Wright did a popular personality music program and also had news experience. Upon joining WIP, he became a swing guy. That is, working 3 days a week doing news and 3 days doing fill in music.
In the fall of 1967, station program director Dick Carr (a member of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia) asked Wright to do the all night show (The Dawn Patrol) just for a little while until WIP could figure out what to do in that time period. He became Nat, the All Night Rat and did the shift for 17 years. Wright was the last person hired by the station as a swing person. After that, you were either music or news...never both. Nat once told us that the first person he would see during his air shift would be Gordon Thomas who came in to prepare the morning newscasts about 4:30 am.
Steve Ross of Helena, Alabama (no relation to Broadcast Pioneers member Steve Ross of "Remember When") e-mailed:
I've just learned this weekend of the passing of Nat Wright on Thanksgiving Day. Nat, Gordon Thomas and I worked the morning shift together for a number of years at WIP. Both men were great colleagues and friends, and I've thought about them often since leaving WIP in 1982, and leaving Philadelphia in 1984.
I would normally come in to work on that shift about 5:00-5:30, and Nat would be wrapping up before handing it off to Ken Garland at 6:00 a.m. Nat was, in my memory, an upbeat guy, a delight to work with, a consummate professional, and a friend. He and Sue will be in my prayers.
I was part of the WIP News team from 1968 until 1982, covering Philadelphia City Hall, the "Roundhouse" beat, and both ends of the clock on the in-house news team. With John Paul Weber, Gordon Thomas, Frank Scott, Charley Swift, Merrill Reese, Ron Gold, and "the boss" Paul Rust, we scored beats on many, many stories, and had the best news shop I've ever worked in. And that includes KYW Newsradio, where I started in 1965....
Nat was born on December 10, 1926 and passed away on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2009. Nat's wife, Sue has told us stories about Nat being involved in panty raids before "there were panty raids." He also managed to put the Dean's desk on top of a flag pole and had ordered one ton of cow manure to be delivered to the Dean's front yard. What a guy and sure to have been one of the Dean's favorite people!
On Friday, Novmber 19, 2010, Nat Wright was posthumously inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Photo originally donated by Broadcast Pioneers historian Gerry Wilkinson
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