What a great day it was - a boy and his dad going to a baseball game together. Next came his wrestling days during high school and college. All of these experiences gave him the self-discipline that he would need later in life. He thought that teaching and coaching would be his life's work, but quite unexpectedly, he ended up in the FBI.
He was privileged to work some of the Bureau's highest profile cases such as the Patty Hearst kidnapping, Jim Jones and the People's Temple mass suicide, the Unabomber, the Chowchilla kidnapping of twenty-six children, and many more cases. He's had a great life with many wonderful memories, but the icing on the cake was his induction into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as an Outstanding American. He is proud to be an American and this is his story!
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About the Author
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FBI Fidelity, Bravery, IntegrityAn Autobiography
By James R. Wright
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2009 James Wright
All right reserved.
Chapter OneModern-day Huck Finn
Writing about one's life can often be tedious, but it is also a great source of joy as memories appear on the written page. I was born September 29, 1943, in Salem, New Jersey, the third boy in the family. I am surprised that my dear mother didn't call it quits after having three boys. My parents had five sons who lived and then finally had a daughter, Elizabeth Elin. Half of us boys feel that we owe our very existence to the fact that my parents kept trying to have a daughter. When I was a year old, my parents moved to Woodbury, New Jersey and bought their first home at 359 South Girard Street, where I lived until I went away to college.
I'm sure my mother didn't have any idea that I would be such a roaming, carefree little boy. Who would have guessed that my life would take me through sports, college, and into the FBI? There were probably some townspeople who thought that Jimmy Wright wouldn't grow up to be worth a plug nickel. But I think that I probably changed their minds through the years as I worked hard to earn money, excelled in sports, and even went on to attend and graduate from college. I hope that they were smiling many years later as they read in the newspapers about my life as an agent in the FBI, workingsome of the best cases in the Bureau, and about my induction into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as an outstanding American. The Wright boy turned out okay after all.
As a curious child, I was the self-proclaimed Huckleberry Finn of Woodbury, New Jersey. Woodbury was a wonderful place for a boy to live, and I spent my youth loving to fish and hunt. The woods, lakes, and rivers around Woodbury were my Mississippi River. There was one lake three blocks from my home in one direction and another lake one block from my home in another direction. The lakes were full of large- and small-mouth bass, calico bass, sunfish, blue gills, perch, catfish, and carp. In the woods were rabbits, pheasant, and quail.
I loved to fish in those lakes. I remember fishing from the top of a large pipe that separated two lakes. I caught a lot of fish, and I'd give them to the fishermen there, who would take them home to eat. One day I caught a giant carp. I ran up the street and a neighbor took my picture with the carp. For a young man, that was quite a thrill.
I never got into serious trouble, but I am sure that my mother was sometimes exasperated with me because I was constantly bringing home rabbits, fish, pheasants, quail, and muskrats-dead, of course.
My companion was my dog, Golly, and occasionally my friends or my brother Jeff were involved in my adventures. Golly was a great hunting dog, brown and white and part beagle. I don't have a clue what the other parts were, but he sure was fast for having such short legs. He would always chase out rabbits so that I could shoot them. One time I shot a quail that landed in a lake and I remember Golly jumping into the lake, swimming out, getting the quail, and bringing it back to me.
One day while I was hunting, I saw a rabbit running through an asparagus field and heard Golly barking. I shot several feet in front of where I thought Golly was and immediately he stopped barking. I thought for sure that I had killed him, so I dropped my gun and ran in his direction. Golly was looking down at the dead rabbit. I certainly learned from that experience, and would never again shoot what I could not see.
I was very fortunate to have good parents, Joseph Humphries Wright and Elinor Louise Wright. They stayed married to each other all their adult lives. My father was a very good man, but scraped by most of his life because he did not have a lot of money. He worked hard, though, and always had a job. I remember one Christmas when all of the boys in our family received a bicycle. I will never know how our parents could afford to give each of us a bike. What a wonderful Christmas that was.
I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at eight years of age. My family used to attend church in Camden, New Jersey, and the only baptismal font was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, so I was baptized in Philadelphia. It was a thrill for me to walk over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge between Camden and Philadelphia.
We got our share of snow and cold winter weather in Woodbury. I used to go sledding, and I would go ice-skating on the lakes near our home. Once in a while, when the ice would cave in, I would fall in water up to my neck. By the time I got home, I would be a walking icicle. It's a wonder that I lived through those years.
Each summer my aunt and uncle, Margaret and Walter Wright, invited my brother and I to stay with them for a week in Cape May, New Jersey. We loved our time in Cape May, fishing, swimming, and just having fun. One day my cousin Walt and I went down to the boardwalk, which was full of amusements. It was built with boards that had spaces between them. When people would pull out their money they would often drop some between the spaces in the boards. Walt and I would go under the boardwalk, sift through the sand, and find a lot of lost coins there. It was fun finding them and having spending money in our pockets.
When I was around eight or nine years old, I joined a little league team and found out that sports came very easy for me. Between ages nine and twelve, I was on a little league team called the Lions. I had good coaches and I loved the sport of baseball. My two main positions were shortstop and pitcher. Over the years I received several awards in baseball, but the one I was most proud of was the highest batting average in little league, at age twelve.
In March of 1962, a severe winter storm hit Cape May and many houses were under water. In fact, my grandmother had to be taken from her home in a rowboat. My uncle Walter was the mayor of Cape May at the time, and he was blamed for not erecting some kind of barrier to protect the citizens of Cape May. My brother Jeff and I hitchhiked down to Cape May after the storm and saw cash registers and many personal items on the beach. That was when Uncle Walter found out that it wasn't fun to be mayor of a city that had just flooded. He used to joke about the flood, telling how he saw a man in a rowboat paddling after his home yelling, "For sale! For sale!"
In the fall, my mother often sat on a chair underneath an apple tree in our back yard, peeling apples. One day I went out to her and noticed that she had dozens of bees walking up and down her arms and hands while she was peeling the apples. I told her she was going to get stung and she replied, "If you don't bother the bees, they won't bother you."
Well, apparently I didn't learn from that because a few days later Golly and I went down to the lake where a very large tree had fallen near the shore. I could hear a buzzing noise inside the tree. Since I sometimes foolishly played with firecrackers and cherry bombs, I decided to drop a cherry bomb down inside the tree. After a very loud explosion, hundreds of bees came out of that tree and began chasing Golly and me down the street stinging us. By the time I got home, I had a couple of bee stings. Bees were coming out of my clothes as I took them off. Clearly I should have paid attention to my mother's advice about not bothering the bees, and they wouldn't have bothered me. It is a wonder that Golly still liked me after that experience. A good dog really is man's best friend. A dog's devotion is unconditional.
Another time when I was out in the backyard, I picked up a wooden basket and found a huge rat underneath. I quickly put the basket back on top of it and yelled to my mother that I had a rat underneath the basket. She said that I probably had a bird. I told her that I knew what rats looked like. She took a wooden stump and whacked it several times. When I lifted the basket again, the rat was dead. I don't think my mother was afraid of anything. And her bravery was certainly a good thing, having five boys to contend with day in and day out.
Because it was extremely humid in the summertime, it was difficult to sleep at night. I asked my parents if I could sleep in the basement where it was cooler. To fully comprehend how desperate I was to sleep at night, it's important to understand what my parents' basement was like. I used to trap rats in our home for my parents. Since my family had chickens, rats would often come into the house. My father paid me twenty-five cents for every rat I killed. I remember one time I heard the trap go off at the top of the stairs to the basement. I saw the rat hobbling down the stairs after getting out of the trap. It was obvious that it was hurt, so I ran after it with a shovel and whacked it several times until it was dead. You can't let twenty-five cents escape! Rats and all, I still wanted to sleep in the basement.
Our family never had much money, so money became very important to me. I remember getting a paper route for the Courier Post before I was really old enough to have one. I built up that route until I had over a hundred customers. The Camden Courier Post treated their carriers very well, and I won many prizes, including a bicycle, for signing up customers. I also worked hard pulling weeds, shoveling snow, selling Christmas candy, trapping muskrats for their pelts, driving an ice cream truck, painting houses, and working for an electric company. It's amazing the things I would do in order to have spending money.
Chapter TwoSchool, Sports, and More
Connie Mack Stadium
When I was a child, the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team played in a stadium in Philadelphia called Connie Mack Stadium. My father and I both loved sports, especially baseball. What a great day it would be, a boy and his dad going to a baseball game together. We would often go to the stadium, arriving while the players were taking batting practice. We soon found out that that if we stationed ourselves in the right field bleachers' lower section, lefthanders would often hit foul balls in our direction, and we were sometimes able to get those foul balls.
Connie Mack Stadium was built in the heart of the Philadelphia slums. There was no parking and you had to leave your car on the street. Often young street-wise boys would come up and say, "Sir, if you will give me some money, I will watch your car and make sure that no one will vandalize it." And if you didn't give them money, there was a good chance that your car would be vandalized. You wondered who actually did the vandalizing.
One time while we were waiting outside the stadium, a player hit a home run and it landed on the porch of a house. Several of us boys rushed up to get the ball. I grabbed it and some of the boys jumped on my back. After they got off my back, I jumped up and held up my hand for my father to see I still had the baseball. I knew that he would be proud of me.
Another time I went to Connie Mack Stadium and was able to get two baseballs in one game. My father, however, was the champion. He actually got three baseballs in one game. The front row seats were right next to the field and you could reach down and pick up baseballs inside the fence. One day my father and one of the players got to the baseball at the same time. They wrestled back and forth and my father won. The ballplayer promised my father that if he would let him have the ball he would give it back when they finished warming up. I was surprised to see my father give him the ball, and when they finished, the player did, in fact, give back the baseball. Between my father and me, we really had quite a collection of baseballs, each with a special story to tell.
We were able to go to the last game in Connie Mack Stadium before it was torn down. After the game, people started tearing the place apart to take home pieces of the stadium as souvenirs. People were taking toilets out of the bathrooms, tearing walls out, and even tearing up the field. While we were still in our seats, a man came up to us and asked us if we wanted the seats that we were sitting in. He had a wrench and said that he was taking the seats apart for people who wanted them. My father said that he did want the seats, and we took home two seats from Connie Mack Stadium. Just imagine having a piece of baseball history right in our home to relive the wonderful memories about me, my dad, and the Philadelphia Phillies.
In 1957, I was in the seventh grade. During this time I learned to jitterbug, and I loved to dance. Everyone I knew loved to do the jitterbug. Our school held a dance contest and, of course, the jitterbug was the dance to do. My partner and I won this contest and were each given a case of Coke soda. Inasmuch as I didn't drink Coke, I gave my case of soda to the runner-up. It sure was a lot of fun dancing back then and I still enjoy dancing today with my wife.
Mr. William Morro encouraged me to try out for wrestling when I was a seventh grader at Woodbury Junior High School, and thus began a lifelong relationship with my friend and future wrestling coach. Sports came easily to me and I always had a strong desire to succeed.
In the eighth grade, I had a history teacher who called my name while taking attendance on the first day of class. When I said here, she asked me if I was the brother of another Wright and I told her I was. After that she said to me in front of the whole class, "I will be watching you closely." I guess my older brother had been a bit mischievous when he was in her class.
But I never did have problems in junior high or high school, because I had good teachers and I really wanted to learn. I was always on the honor roll, which meant I got all As and Bs. While in high school, I was on the student council, received the American Legion Award, and was an alternate to Boy's State-a summer leadership and citizenship program sponsored by the American Legion.
For two summers in 1960 and 1961, I worked at Camp Viking in Orleans, Massachusetts, as part of the galley crew. I loved this position and during our off times we were able to fish and sail and do the things the campers did. The campers were children of movie stars and rich people, and had plenty of money. One of the young men with whom I worked with in the galley was named Gerry Drinkwater. Gerry has always been a good friend of mine. He carved tikis, put rawhide straps around them, and then sold them to those rich little kids. Gerry was doing very well and he came up to me and said, "Look, Jim, we can make a lot of money selling these tikis to the campers. Why don't you help me carve them." Gerry gave me a block of wood and a razor and I began to carve. It wasn't long before I realized that I would never be able to carve anything that anyone would want to have. Gerry also realized that I was not a carver of tikis. So he said, "Jim, why don't you do the selling for me and I will carve the tikis." That was when I learned that artwork was not my favorite subject.
I was always thinking up ways to earn that green stuff. In 1960, I went into business with a young man named Kenny Anderson. Kenny and I made a business trapping muskrats and then selling the pelts. It was a fun way to make a living, and Kenny and I were very good at what we did. But those muskrats sure were mean, feisty critters. We would trap and drown the muskrats and then take them to the basement at my home and pelt them. Later we found an individual who would pay us for the muskrats without us pelting them. At the time, we were paid around three dollars for each muskrat, and we trapped lots of them. But it didn't seem to affect the muskrat population too much.
We used two types of traps. In one the muskrat would go into the box trap and couldn't get out, and then would drown when the water got higher. The other trap worked like a bear trap. I was very disappointed one day to find only the leg of an albino muskrat in a trap. Albino muskrats were worth a lot more money than the black or brown muskrats. The muskrat must have felt it was better to lose a leg than to lose its life.
Excerpted from FBI Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity by James R. Wright Copyright © 2009 by James Wright . Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Modern-day Huck Finn....................1
Chapter 2 School, Sports, and More....................7
Chapter 3 Brigham Young University....................14
Chapter 4 Early Marriage....................23
Chapter 5 Teaching and Coaching....................33
Chapter 6 FBI Training....................41
Chapter 7 FBI-New Haven, Connecticut....................50
Chapter 8 Transfer to San Francisco....................56
Chapter 9 Work and Play....................69
Chapter 10 Kidnapping-Innocent Victims....................78
Chapter 11 Bank Robbery Cases....................84
Chapter 12 Jim Jones and the People's Temple....................100
Chapter 13 In the Service of Your Fellow Man....................107
Chapter 14 Twenty Years with the FBI....................115
Chapter 15 A New Enemy....................129
Chapter 16 Transfer to Salt Lake City....................138
Chapter 17 Justice Township....................149
Chapter 18 A New Beginning....................160
Chapter 19 Memories-National Wrestling Hall of Fame-A Good Life....................167
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