JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — The first African-American voted to the Onslow County Board of Commissioners passed away on Friday.

Onslow County Government posted on its Facebook page that Ernest “Ernie” Wright, died at age 69. He was on the board of commissioners from 1992-2000. He was first elected by the board to serve as vice chairman in 1996.

Tim Foster, current chairman of the Onslow County Board of Commissioners, said Wright’s passing was a loss for the entire community.

“Ernie Wright will be dearly missed in Onslow County. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends,” Foster said. “His contributions to our County are numerous and he will be missed by many.”

During Wright’s tenure, the Onslow County Board of Commissioners undertook efforts to build the Richlands Branch Library, Onslow County Museum Building and Robert A. Glass Building for Onslow County Animal Services.

Wright moved to Onslow County in 1979 and was a Marine veteran, attorney and volunteered for many community causes. He was a Guardian ad Litem, director of the Jacksonville Tourism Development Authority and part of the Voting Rights Task Force.

Mayor Sammy Phillips issued a statement on Wright’s death.

“On behalf of the City of Jacksonville and the City Council, we mourn the passing of Ernie Wright and send our sincerest condolences to his family. His passing leaves a void in this community. 

“Ernie served the people of North Carolina for more than 30 years in civil and criminal trial practice for both the state and federal courts.  He served as a Guardian ad Litem to protect children’s rights and was the first person of color to be elected to the Onslow County Board of Commissioners.  

“His generous heart and deep commitment to making Jacksonville a better place has helped so many.  Ernie served as a member of the Jacksonville Tourism Development Authority since its inception and was Chairman of the Citizen Redistricting Committee for Jacksonville.” 

Wright was an advocate for all citizens, a spokesperson for the advancement of rights for all people, and helped to foster the advancement of healthcare and fair housing in the area. He served on many community boards and committees including the Onslow County Board of Elections, the Voting Rights Task Force, chairman for the ZECA School of the Arts and Technology, Chamber of Commerce Board or Directors, Onslow Women’s Shelter just to name a few.  

He was involved in many activities for the betterment of our community, including the Community Action Network, Friends of Black Children’s group and as a basketball coach for Jacksonville Recreation for more than 15 years.  

The City honored Wright and his wife, Marcia Wright, for their outstanding contributions to the community in May of 2021 and the Onslow Civic Affairs, Fabric of the Community Awards Ceremony. (https://youtu.be/CoSuDtmdjp4