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Archive for June 16th, 2020

orawrighter

Ellicott Mall property shown in red. Ora Wrighter Drive shown in yellow.

Given what is going on these days, we are featuring streets named after our Black brothers and sisters this month here on Discovering Buffalo, One Street at a Time.  Specifically, this is Part 3 in a series of  four streets built in the 1990s in the Ellicott Neighborhood.  To read more about how the Ellicott Mall urban renewal project changed this neighborhood and to learn about Minnie Gillette, please read Part 1.  Part 2 is about Delmar Mitchell and can be found here.  Today, in Part 3, we are focusing on Ora Wrighter.  Part 4 will be about King Peterson and will be posted this coming weekend.

2763f426e294e938308017588262ae2cOra Perry Wrighter was born in December 1920 in Birmingham Alabama, to Owen and Alberta Perry.  She came to Buffalo as a child with her family and graduated from the Buffalo Public Schools.  She attended Hartwick Seminary.  At the time of her death, she was a student at Medaille College.

Mrs. Wrighter began working at Community Action Organization in 1967 as a Community Aide. She was considered to be a fighter for the people.  She attended community meetings to fight for the poor.  She was involved in many grassroots organizations, and was often sought for her expertise by other organizations.  She served on the 7th District Planning Board, New York State Urban Development Corporation Community Advisory Committee for the Urban Development Corporation-Ellicott Neighborhood Advisory Committee Ellicott Housing; and the Steering Committee for Buffalo’s Model Cities Program. She served as the manager of the Ellicott center located in the County multipurpose center she fought to have built.

She was given a Distinguished Service Award from Mayor Joseph A. Sedita for her service to the Model Cities Program.  The Models Cities Program was a part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society reforms.  The programs emphasized social and anti-poverty programs as well as physical renewal.  As the country moved away from social programs in the late 60s-early 70s, the program shifted away from the social programs towards brick and mortar apartment building projects.  Buffalo was one of 75 cities awarded Model Cities program funding in the first round.  The program ended in 1974.

buffalo criterion ora wrighter

Mrs. Wrighter hosting a Christmas Party in her apartment. Source: Buffalo Criterion, January 10, 1976.

Mrs. Wrighter lived in the AD Price Courts at William and Jefferson for 17 years.  The AD Price Courts, also known as the Willert Part Courts, was built in 1939.  Willert Park was the first housing project in New York State built exclusively for African Americans.  Mrs. Wrighter was involved in the construction of Ellicott Houses, a complex of 200 townhouses built near Hickory and Swan Street between 1970 and 1972.

She was Vice President of the Community Interaction Committee at Sheehan Memorial Hospital.  She was also a member of the Board at Jesse Nash Community Health Center.

Mrs. Wrighter died on August 23, 1977 of a heart attack.  After her death, the Ora L. Wrighter Memorial Fund was created at Sheehan.  Sheehan Hospital was a private hospital on Michigan Avenue that had been established as “Emergency Hospital” in 1894.  It was run by Sisters of Charity, who also ran Sisters Hospital.  The hospital closed in 2012.

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