Strong. Courageous. Dependable. Special. These are just a few of the words used to describe former Smyrna mayor George C. Wright Jr. Saturday morning at Municipal Park on North Main Street in a renaming ceremony of the park, which is now the George C. Wright Jr. Municipal Park.
The ceremony drew quite the crowd as local residents, officials, friends and family of Wright came to show their support.
Smyrna Town Council passed a resolution in November to rename the park after Wright. Born in Chesapeake City, Wright eventually found his way to Smyrna. In 1969, he was elected to his first of six terms on Smyrna Town Council. In 1981, Wright became the first African American mayor elected in the state; he served seven consecutive terms until deciding not to run for reelection in 1995. He currently serves as the executive director of the Delaware League of Local Governments.
Smyrna Mayor Joanne Masten welcomed the crowd Saturday at the ceremony.
"We are here today to honor a special Smyrna citizen," Masten said. "He continues to be an inspiration not only for our town but others towns."
Several local and state officials read aloud resolutions to honor Wright including Smyrna Vice Mayor Regina Brown, Sen. Bruce Ennis (D-Smyrna), Rep. Bill Carson (D-Smyrna), and Levy Court Commissioner Glen Howell.
Dr. Marion Evans Potter read an ode she wrote about Wright. In the ode, Potter talks about the courage of Wright who is always willing to give a helping hand.
"If fairness was at stake, he heeded the call," Potter said. "Dependable he remains."
Former Smyrna mayor Pat Stombaugh said the road to renaming the park after Wright started six years ago when she originally proposed the new business bark on Artisan Drive be named after him. Renaming the park was a possibility, Stombaugh said, thanks to the help of town employees like Manager of Planning & Zoning Janet Vinc and Vice Mayor Regina Brown.
Following a few more shared memories of Wright, it was time to unveil the monument placed at the front of the park. Wright took a few minutes then to thank everyone for sharing the day with him.
"This isn't an exciting day for me. It's an exciting day for those that come behind me," Wright said.
Then Wright went on to explain that he was born to be a failure based on the philosophy of people today. His mother had a fifth grade education and his father was an alcoholic; Wright's parents separated early in his life. Even though he was expected to fail, Wright didn't.
"I hope every kid that walks in this park realizes they can achieve their dreams," he said.
Monument knocked over
Vinc said Monday morning that the monument dedicated to Wright at the front of the park was knocked over at some point over the weekend, possibly even later Saturday afternoon following the renaming ceremony.
Police Chief Wil Bordley said the department is investigating the incident but it's unknown at this time if the incident was an accident or an act of vandalism. Bordley said there's a chance the monument may not have been set properly.
Mayor Joanne Masten brought up the park dedication and addressed the incident with the monument at Monday's council meeting.
"We had a really nice event in town here and that was the unveiling of the monument in honor of George C. Wright Jr. who was a council person and a mayor for many years," Masten said. "However, unfortunately there's been some damage done to the monument. It is really broken."
Bordley said there was a meeting Monday between town officials, the insurance company, and the company that put in the monument and it looks like part of the monument is salvageable but not all of it.
Email Jennifer Dailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.