Jonathan Jasper Wright
Jonathan Jasper Wright (c. 1870)
Associate Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court
January 30, 1870 – December 1, 1877
Solomon L. Hoge
Alexander Cheves Haskell
Member of the South Carolina Senate
from Beaufort County
November 24, 1868 – January 30, 1870
Richard J. Davant
February 11, 1840
February 18, 1885 (aged 45)
Charleston, South Carolina
Jonathan Jasper Wright was an African-American lawyer who served as a judge on the Supreme Court of the State of South Carolina during Reconstruction from 1870 to 1877.
Wright was born on February 11, 1840, in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. When he was about six years old his parents removed to Montrose, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. He attended the district school during the winter months, working for the neighboring farmers the rest of the year.
Having saved up a small sum of money, he entered the Lancasterian University, at Ithaca, in New York State. After a thorough course of study there, he returned to the village where his parents resided. He entered the office of a law firm, where he read law for two years, supporting himself by teaching. He subsequently entered the office of Judge Collins, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, with whom he read law for another year. He applied for admission to the Bar but the committee refused to examine him because of racial prejudice.
In April 1865, Wright was sent by the American Missionary Society to Beaufort, South Carolina, as a teacher and laborer among the freed slaves. He remained in Beaufort until the Civil Rights Act passed. Then he returned to Montrose, Pennsylvania, and demanded an examination for the Bar. The Committee found him qualified, and recommended his admission to the Bar. He was admitted August 13, 1865, and was the first African American admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania.
In April 1866, Wright was appointed by General Oliver Otis Howard as head of the Freedmen's Bureau in Beaufort, to be the legal adviser for the freedmen. In July 1868 he was elected to the Constitutional Convention of South Carolina. He was the convention vice-president and helped draft the judiciary section of the State Constitution, which remains today. Wright was soon afterward elected state senator from Beaufort County. On February 1, 1870, he was elected to the South Carolina Supreme Court. He served for seven years, until the white Democrats regained control of state government in 1877. Wright left the Court and entered into private practice in Charleston. He died in 1885.