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What a beautiful soul: Joe Nathan Wright, Aug. 15, 1955-Feb. 23, 2022

Updated: Jul 24, 2022

San Francisco BayView:

Joe was a “man’s man” and a “soldier’s soldier,” a leader of men and an encourager. If he met a stranger, his disarming smile made most an instant friend forever.

by Jackie Wright

“What a beautiful soul,” said baby sister, Phyllis.

“I did not know my last visit with Joe would be my last visit,” said baby brother, Stanley.

“Joe, my first sibling, was a shining light and he is shining even more brilliantly in the presence of his Creator, Jesus Christ,” said big sister, Jackie.

Joe Nathan Wright (Aug. 15, 1955-Feb. 23, 2022) was born at Martin Army Hospital at Fort Benning, Ga., into the military family of Sp5 Wyley Wright Jr., his father (Dec. 7, 1931-March 9, 1964) and Ouida Fay McClendon Wright, his mother (Jan. 10, 1935-March 9, 1970). Joe passed away suddenly from cardiac arrest in Grand Prairie, Texas, leaving a multitude of grieving and stunned family members and friends.

Joe lived on military bases with his family in Wildflecken, Germany, Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico and Fort Knox, Ky., before his mother settled the family near Fort Benning, Ga., in the cities Phenix City, Ala., and Columbus, Ga., after his father’s death March 9, 1964 in a helicopter crash in Vietnam while serving as an honor guard for Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara.

As a result of his formative years as a “military brat,” Joe Nathan, as his mother called him, had a great love for travel and meeting people. Most describe him as outgoing and very gregarious and someone who never met a stranger. If he did meet a stranger, his disarming smile made most an instant friend forever.

Joe was a 1974 graduate of Baker High School, where he met the love of his life Brenda Michelle Tibbs, who became his wife and mother of his three children, Damon, Candis and Chad. Joe’s high school days were filled with the joy of discovery where he played excellently on the Baker High football team until he suffered an injury and was on the basketball team for a while.

Joe received his AA degree in Business Administration at Columbus Technical School in Georgia, which is now Columbus Technical College. Later, he also studied marketing at Los Positas College in Dublin, Calif.

The arts were also a part of his delight in life. As an original member of the Spices of Love with Marion Bivens, Granvel “Bunny” Hopkins and Henry Owens, Joe Cool, as he was called by his many high school friends, made it into the WOKS Radio Talent Show.

But Spices of Love, after making it into the finals, was disqualified when several girls spontaneously jumped on the stage and started hugging and kissing the group. WOKS officials thought Spices of Love had staged the whole thing with their groupies. As a historical note, brought together by Kenneth Smigelow, the Spices of Love evolved into the final group with Marion Bivions, Spurgeon Green, Granvel Hopkins, Michael Rhymes and Henry Owens.

Music was always a part of Joe’s “joie de vivre.” He had an inspirational ministry, putting together the Christian music of Kurt Carr, The Canton Spirituals, Hezekiah Walker, John P. Kee, Kirk Franklin and so many others. Many have testified to the fact that those Holy Spirit-curated songs through Joe were received at a low point in their lives; the weight of the world was lifted when they listened to Joe’s playlist, which was always given at the right moment. Joe Wright always blessed others by just being Joe.

As a result of his formative years as a “military brat,” Joe Wright, had a great love for travel and meeting people. Here he is with his family at the U.S. military base in Wildflecken, Germany.

Joe was an unpublished writer who loved a good story. Mississippi born and bred comedian Jerry Clower was one of his favorites. He’d imitate Clower’s distinctive holler and the stories of New-Gene and Clovis Ledbetter from time to time to entertain at family occasions and even at a few San Francisco Bay Area clubs.

Joe had such an attractive spirit, affirmed by his landing a Kellogg’s commercial while just walking down the street on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. His positive spirit can be seen in the award-winning short documentary film “Love Separated in Life … Love Reunited in Honor,” for which he was an executive producer.

He declared the March 10, 2014, ceremony and reburial of his Vietnam hero father and faithful mother at Arlington National Cemetery was “not a sad occasion, but a celebration,” when the couple was reunited after 50 years.

Joe was a “man’s man” and a “soldier’s soldier,” a leader of men and an encourager. He quickly moved up to the rank of sergeant, instructor and squad leader in the U.S. Army, becoming an award-winning NCO academy instructor for the 197th division. Moving to the Bay Area after seven years of honorable service in the U.S. Army, Joe, with his dear wife Brenda, a longtime Caltrans and Bay Bridge employee, raised their children Damon, Candis and Chad in the City of San Leandro, Calif., near his brother Stanley and sister-in-law Viola Barnes Wright, who lived in Oakland with their children Stanley D’rell and Devon.

The Wright family increased when sister Phyllis and Woodrow Cameron, who became her husband, moved to the Bay Area after Phyllis’ graduation from Georgia Southwestern College in Americus, Ga. Ultimately, in 1990, sister Jackie joined the Wright family when her daughter Tiffanie chose to attend Baylor University in Texas instead of the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., where they were living.

Joe and Stanley with their wives carried on the spirit of hospitality of their parents. With their wives, life was always a party gathering with friends with the lighting of a barbecue grill special occasion or not.

Joe worked in the San Francisco Bay Area in various sales and driving positions ultimately working at MV Transportation as a bus driver picking up the elderly and people with disabilities. It was a position he enjoyed, and many times he spoke of the inspirational conversations he would have both giving inspiration and receiving inspiration.

A driver at MV Transportation was the last position he held before leaving the Bay Area with his wife in 2005 to care for his elderly U.S. Army veteran father-in-law Bruce Tibbs, who had been widowed after the death of his deeply loved wife Doris, many years before.

The testimony of Joe’s servant leader’s heart is seen in his dedication to family. With the help of the Lord Jesus Christ, the lesson of dedication and the value of family were learned in his overcoming the struggles of life and the self-destruction of running after the crowd in the streets in the Bay Area.

Not long after returning to Columbus, Ga., Joe served Brenda, who became ill, and also his father-in-law while Joe held down a job as a courier delivering radioactive medicine to hospitals for Cardinal Health. He also worked with TransCor, where he was delighted to meet Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s youth mentee and eventual Civil Rights hero in his own right, Jesse Jackson.

Joe’s dedication was magnified as he continued to daily care for his father-in-law after the death of Brenda, (July 23, 1956-Nov. 18, 2018).

After his return to Columbus and amid the years of care for Brenda and her father, Joe, who also had a street ministry called The Street Disciples, worked with his brother Stanley and friends to create the Street Disciples Home Boys Reunion, which became the Home Boys and Home Girls Reunion at the old Cedar Hills Recreation Center.

The annual gathering grew to draw generations of the young and old in the Cedar Hill subdivision where the Wright family home of Tennessee marble rock was built by Ed Stovall, one of the very rare Black contractors in the 1960s.

In alignment with Joe’s mother Fay’s desire always for their home to be a place of refuge for family and friends, the Wright home of 1103 Bedford Avenue is now an elder care facility created by the Wrights’ cousins, Katie Morris and Robert Morris Sr., now deceased.

As a minister, one of Joe’s first ceremonial honors was to conduct the wedding of his niece Tiana Tibbs to Marcus Culley. He further enjoyed giving his testimony at Christ Community Church at their Celebrate Recovery ministry meetings to encourage others to know that through Jesus Christ total recovery can be achieved and maintained.

Joe never met a stranger, and he lived out his mother’s motto, “If I can’t help you, I won’t hurt you.” It was with great grief mixed with the overcoming hope of Christ that the Wright family and Joe’s many friends prepared to lay him to rest. Even Jesus cried with great grief when he stood before the tomb of Lazarus knowing that He Himself, the Creator, was about to raise his friend Lazarus from the dead.

Jesus has walked the path we walk and has felt our pains and infirmities. Joe knew this and even prophesied Romans 8 – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus … neither death … nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” – with a bracelet he had on his right arm as he lay prostrate, as if fallen before the throne of Jesus, when his body was discovered by his protective sister Jackie, who was the first of family and friends to feel the robbery and sting of the “last enemy,” death, that Jesus will destroy. So, cry as Jesus cried for Lazarus, but know the best is yet to come.

Joe Wright’s whole family and friends came together to honor the legendary father, brother, son and hero’s life on Thursday, March 10, 2022, in Georgia. In lieu of flowers, the Wright family welcomes your contributions to the Joe Wright Legacy Fund.

Don’t let grief burden you down, because if you could see Joe now, you’d see him in the brightness of God, walking the streets of gold hand in hand with Brenda, where he hears the tumults of “Hey Joe” like he was accustomed to hearing when he entered a room on earth, where “Hey Joe,” “Hey Joe,” “Hey Joe” would ring all over from friends happy to see him.

Joe Wright’s life is greatly mourned by family. Loving children: eldest son, Damon Chase Wright; daughter, Candis Tiana Wright (Devon Alli); youngest son, Chad Nathan Wright (Tina). Grandchildren: Jacobi Barrett; Ava Noel Wright; Chad Nathan Wright Jr. (CJ); Giselle Wright. Siblings: sister, Jackie Wright; brother, Stanley Wright (Viola); sister, Phyllis Cameron (Woodrow). Brothers-in-law: Bruce Tibbs Jr. (Sandy); Brian Tibbs (Nell).

Nieces: Tiffanie Chiles Mitchell (first babysitter for Damon, Candis and Chad) (Carlos); Aaliyah Wright; Jessica Cameron; Calah Mitchell; Toi Tibbs; Tiana Tibbs Culley (Marcus); Amber Tibbs Turner (Jerry); Briandy Tibbs. Nephews: Stanley D’Rell Wright Jr. (Jade Harris); Khari Harris Wright; Devin Chase Wright; Carlos Mitchell (Tiffanie); Carter Mitchell: Cole Mitchell; Todd Tibbs; Brian Tibbs Jr.; Marcus Culley (Tiana); Jerry Turner (Amber).

The obsequies administered by Sconiers Funeral Home of Columbus, Ga., to lay Joe Nathan Wright to rest were officiated by childhood neighbor and friend, Rev. Maurice Edwards at 12 p.m., Thursday, March 10, 2022, at Christ Community Church with Lead Pastor Derrick Shields, 4078 Milgen Road, Columbus, GA 31907. Burial with his wife Brenda Tibbs Wright followed at Fort Mitchell National Cemetery, 553 AL-165, Fort Mitchell, AL 36856.

In lieu of flowers, the Wright family welcomes your contributions to the Joe Wright Legacy Fund here. Although beautiful, flowers are fleeting and short-lived. This opportunity to give tribute to Joe is for an investment in the legacy of Joe Nathan Wright for his children Damon, Candis and Chad and for his grandchildren. Your investment in the Joe Wright Legacy Fund expands beyond the fleeting days of beautiful flowers and has a more lasting legacy.

The Wright family greatly thanks the Grand Prairie EMT, Sgt. David Griesinger of the Grand Prairie Police Department, Dr. Stephen Lenfest and Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences and Dallas County Office of Medical Examiner staff for the kindness and professionalism shown as first responders on Feb. 23, 2022, the day of Joe N. Wright’s death by cardiac arrest.

The Wright family thanks everyone for all of their expressions of love and condolences. God bless and keep you all for your kindness and compassion.


City of Columbus, Ga., presents proclamation to the Wright family

“I know that my redeemer lives,

and that in the end he will stand on the earth.

And after my skin has been destroyed,

yet in my flesh I will see God;

I myself will see him

with my own eyes – I, and not another.

How my heart yearns within me!”

– Job 19:25-27

Jackie Wright is the president of Wright Enterprises, a full service public relations. She has over 20 years of media experience as an award-winning journalist in radio, television and print. She can be reached at or

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