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James A. Wright

Died: January 18, 2015

James Arthur Wright died at the age of 80 in Huntsville, Alabama, where he had lived since 1982. He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Warrene C. Wright; two daughters, Jaime Lane Wright and Jocelyn Clea Wright; one sister, Patricia Winters; and three brothers, George Russell Wright, Fredrick Douglas Wright, and Russell Wright.

James was born on April 4, 1934, in West Stewartstown, New Hampshire, a tiny town at the intersection of Vermont, New Hampshire and Canada. He prepared for Yale at Canaan Memorial High School, Canaan, VT.

James entered Yale in 1951; but, determined to be a Naval pilot, he secured an appointment to the Naval Academy. Although his eyesight prevented him from attending Annapolis, he enlisted in the Marines and embarked for Korea, only to find that the war had ended before he disembarked.

James had studied math and physics while at Yale. He was drawn to science by its beauty and elegance, but an early brush with Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principal led him to electrical engineering. This, in turn, led him to join the Range Rats when he was discharged. The Range Rats, an informal but essential part of our early space program, were a team of workers and technicians who tracked the missiles and rockets fired from Cape Canaveral. It was at Cape Canaveral that James met and married his wife. His work with the Range Rats led him to tiny island outposts that stretched across the Caribbean and the Atlantic, and to many foreign countries, allowing him to become fluent in German and Portuguese.

On returning to Yale in 1964, he obtained a bachelors degree in engineering and applied science (electrical engineering) and graduated with the class of 1966. He subsequently obtained a masters degree in electrical engineering from the Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Florida, in 1975.

He then joined RCA in New Jersey. Moving to Huntsville, Alabama, the home of his wife’s family, he first worked for Teledyne Brown Engineering. In 1995 he joined Computer Communications Systems Engineering, Intergraph C Corporation, where he worked until his death.

James was a cradle Episcopalian and an active member of St. Thomas Episcopal Church of Huntsville, Alabama. Although a scientist, James’ deep and abiding faith easily embraced the conviction that some truths are better explained by faith than by logic, a natural extension of his ability to find elegance in math and science.

James’ family describe him as a supportive and loving father, a scientist who saw beauty and challenge in the world around him and at the frontiers of space, a mathematician, a poet, and a Romantic. He was entranced and energized by the diversity of backgrounds and interests he found at Yale and by his many experiences abroad, for which he felt Yale had well prepared him. He was a true Renaissance man.