Robert Wright, wrote for Boeing and TV, dies at 88
When he turned 83, Robert Wright sat down and penned his two sons a letter. "I'm not going to end this essay with a fat lot of sage and...
Seattle Times staff reporter
When he turned 83, Robert Wright sat down and penned his two sons a letter.
"I'm not going to end this essay with a fat lot of sage and wise fatherly advice," he wrote. "You guys wouldn't follow it anyway. We all generally make our own happiness just as we generally make our own unhappiness. So don't let that glass become half empty and remember."
These were words from a writer, a former Boeing nonengineer engineer, who for decades wrote scripts for television's top shows.
Mr. Wright, 88, died of pneumonia at his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Father's Day, June 17.
Born in Seattle, Mr. Wright told his sons how he worked at a newspaper stand and dreamed about buying a shortwave radio receiver because of his passion for radio.
When he finally raised $65 he had enough money to buy his radio kit, but the next morning he woke up with severe pains and had to have an emergency appendectomy, which took all of his radio money.
After high school, Mr. Wright worked for the Bremerton News-Searchlight as a reporter and photographer.
In the late 1930s, when the nation was close to entering World War II, Boeing was hiring. Mr. Wright wrote a letter to the company president — to the shock of his friends — suggesting he could help it speed up the creation of drawings.
He told his sons he was surprised when he was offered a job, and he was hired as an engineer, even though he wasn't an engineer.
"My task was to transpose the technical jargon of engineers into a form that could be understood by the average enlisted man who would be assigned to repair and maintain the B-17 Forts," he wrote.
Mr. Wright's son Gregory, of Sherman Oaks, Calif., said his dad once went to Cape Canaveral, Fla., and filmed early rocket launches for Boeing.
He was unable to enlist in the military because of poor vision, and he eventually went blind.
In 1957 Mr. Wright was graphic-arts supervisor for Boeing's engineering department and supervised 168 artists, writers and film technicians. In 1959 he flew to Los Angeles to hire an actor to narrate Boeing training films; the actor suggested he try his hand in television writing.
He dropped his first script for the then-top-rated "Maverick" television series on the desk of the show's producer, who bought it.
Mr. Wright eventually moved to California, where he wrote nearly 100 episodes for dozens of television shows for three decades, including "Maverick," "Bonanza," "Gunsmoke," "Little House on the Prairie," "Lost in Space" and "Fantasy Island."
"It was quite amazing what he pulled off," said Gregory Wright. "He really beat the odds, a combination of brilliance and very good luck."
Mr. Wright's older brother, Burton, of Troy, Ala., said he wasn't surprised his brother made it big in Hollywood. "He was a brilliant lad, and it's hard to keep a man like that down," he said. "He was a damned good writer."
Mr. Wright wrote to his sons: "Yes, I had the talent for writing, but it had taken me a hell of a lot of work to develop it plus a mind that was open enough to listen to good advice."
Mr. Wright also wrote a murder mystery about a blind person, reflecting his own diminishing vision.
His scripts and other works are housed in the special collections section of the University of Oregon Library in Eugene.
In addition to his brother and son Gregory, Mr. Wright is survived by his wife, Betty, of Thousand Oaks, and son Gary, of San Luis Obispo, Calif.
A memorial service is pending.
In another letter to his sons, Mr. Wright wrote: "One man's deep thinker may be an addle-pated airhead to another. On the other hand, I have my coterie of adoring and fawning fans who regard me with awe and believe I'm the greatest chap they've ever known. I can hear you saying, 'My God, Father, you're terribly conceited.' "
Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or firstname.lastname@example.org
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.