John “Jack” Dewitt Wright, son of Paris B. Wright and Nancy “Nannie” Mathilda Mcclintock, was born on 5 December 1898 in Newport, Kentucky, at the family home at 549 Lexington Avenue. Jack’s early occupation as a delivery boy for the Bissinger Chocolate Company and his friendship with the company’s owners later resulted in a tradition of giving his wife Bissinger chocolates on every holiday. In 1916, he graduated from high school in Newport having participated in football, basketball, and track, as well as the Literary Society. He also was editor-in-chief of the annual.

Jack enlisted in a National Guard unit that was called for World War I service. He attended Officers Candidate School (OCS) at Camp Gordon, Georgia, where he was a member of the first company of the First Battalion. As editor-in-chief, he produced the first OCS class annual. Commissioned a second lieutenant in September 1918, he never served overseas because the war ended in November.

Jack then attended Babson Statistical Institute, Boston, and was employed by the Babson Company briefly in Cleveland. In 1920, Jack was a bonds salesman in Cincinnati.

John Dewitt Wright married Verena Hannah Althaus, daughter of William Valentine Althaus and Hannah Weitzel Edwards, on 24 August 1921 in Dayton, Ohio. Jack and Vee had two sons, Jim and John, after they moved to St. Louis.

Jack switched jobs and became a field executive for the St. Louis Boy Scout Council. The family moved into a building next to the Cote Brilliante School in the city to be near Jack’s North City Boy Scout Field District. A severe tornado within two blocks of this house in 1927 reportedly caused the family’s move to Webster Groves. In 1929, Jack was transferred and became chief executive for the Covered Wagon Council, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) in Omaha, Nebraska, where the family lived at 5105 Cummings.

Jack Wright 1940
Jack Wright, c. 1940
Photo in the collection of Carol Whitton
Used with permission

In September 1935, Jack was transferred back to St. Louis as the chief executive of the St. Louis Council, BSA. The family bought first at 223 Bristol, then later 330 Planthurst in Webster Groves and joined the Presbyterian Church. Jack was a Mason. In mid-July 1937, Jack, son Jim, and a St. Louis troop attended the National Boy Scout Jamboree in Washington, D.C., then went on to the International Scout Jamboree in the Netherlands in August.

Jack’s BSA innovations included regional camporees instead of a large city camp, continuing events like the Boy Scout Circus and Merit Badge Show, and expanding camping facilities by organizing Camp Lion’s Den, Beaumont Reservation, and Camp Brereton, the Sea Scout base. In the 1930s, he was responsible for including African-American scouts.

Jack and Vee celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in August 1946. Then on 23 September 1946, while at Camp Irondale supervising the end of the camp season, Jack died suddenly at age forty-seven. He was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Kirkwood. In 1954, the Boy Scouts dedicated a new lodge at Beaumont Reservation to him.

Written by Carol Whitton
April 2017

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Last Modified: 26-Oct-2018 11:34