Born: 22 September 1941
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Best known as: Estranged former pastor of Barack Obama
Jeremiah Wright was pastor and spiritual advisor to Barack Obama until the two became estranged during the 2008 presidential campaign over Wright's controversial sermons and public remarks. The media frenzy that contributed to the rift came after Wright had already retired as pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's tough South Side, where he had served since 1972 and where Obama had embraced Christianity as a young community organizer in 1988. A scholarly, fiery, gifted African American preacher, Wright was not afraid over the years to criticize U.S. culture and government. In March 2008, a month after his retirement, a handful of video clips featuring strident excerpts from his sermons found their way into television campaign coverage and were aired repeatedly. In one, Wright said America deserved God's damnation for its hostility toward its own poor and toward other nations. Obama at first defended Wright's "prophetic" voice and Trinity's impressive record of community service under his leadership. But the candidate eventually distanced himself from the pastor, most forcefully after Wright's feisty April 2008 performance under questioning at the National Press Club. Obama resigned his Trinity membership in June 2008, and was elected president that November. Wright's title at Trinity is "pastor emeritus."
Extra credit: Wright served in the U.S. Marines (1961-63), finished U.S. Navy corpsman's school in 1963, and was a cardiopulmonary technician at the U.S. Navy Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland (1963-67), where he served on a medical team attending to President Lyndon Johnson... He studied at Virginia Union University (1959-61) and, after military service, at Howard University (1967-1969), where he earned B.A. and M.A. degrees. He earned another master's degree at the University of Chicago Divinity School (1975) and a D.Min. at United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio (1990)... Born and raised Baptist, he was first licensed to preach while a freshman in college and later received standing as an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ... His five children are a daughter, Jamila, with his wife, the Rev. Ramah Reed Wright; two adult daughters, Janet and Jeri, from a previous marriage (Wright and his first wife, Janet, divorced in 1978); and two adult step-children, Nikol and Nathan, from Ramah's first marriage (she and Delmer Reed divorced in 1983).
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