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WRIGHT, ALONZO G.

WRIGHT, ALONZO G. (30 Apr. 1898-17 Aug. 1976), a black southern migrant who became a millionaire, was born in Fayetteville, Tenn., son of Alonzo and Joyce Kelso Wright. He worked as a shoeshine boy and a messenger and moved to Cleveland in the early 1910s. Alonzo earned his high school diploma at night while working as a teamster, foundry hand, mail-truck driver, and garage attendant at Auditorium Hotel for 8 years, there meeting Sohio executive Wallace T. Holliday. Impressed by his work, Holliday arranged for Wright to become the first African American to lease a Sohio station, at E. 93rd and Cedar, the first Standard Oil station in a predominantly black neighborhood. Customers were attracted by new services Wright offered: cleaning windshields regularly and offering free tire and radiator checks. By 1937, Wright operated 6 stations; he operated 11 stations before leaving the business in the mid-1940s.

Wright created job opportunities for young blacks, credited by 1940 with having hired more black youths than any other businessman in the U.S. As gas rationing slowed sales, Wright left the service-station business, in 1943 establishing Wright's Enterprises, a real-estate investment firm. He bought Carnegie Hotel (1947), Ritzwood Hotel, and established Dunbar Nursing Home. In the 1960s, Wright concentrated on industrial and residential construction. Even as a successful businessman, when he moved into an all-white section of CLEVELAND HTS. in the 1930s, his home was bombed; in 1947 he moved to Chesterland. Wright married Henrietta Cheeks in 1929 (d. 1963), and Helen Keith in 1964. Wright died at his home in BRATENAHL and was buried in LAKE VIEW CEMETERY. He had one son, A. Gordon, Jr.