Hometown Hero--Howard Wright - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

11/09/07

Hometown Hero--Howard Wright

Howard Wright Howard Wright
Beaufort National Cemetery Beaufort National Cemetery

This weekend, black Civil War veterans will be honored at the Beaufort National Cemetery with military headstones, and it's all thanks to one man.

The Beaufort National Cemetery is filled with America's veterans. But Howard Wright says some of them, along with others in cemeteries throughout Beaufort County, haven't been properly recognized for their service.

"You can see it says USCT, that stands for United States Colored Troops, that's basically the infantry," said Wright, pointing out the inscription on a grave marker.

These troops are buried in what used to be a segregated section of the cemetery, but Wright has made it his mission to shed light on each and every one of the black Civil War veterans in the area.

"We want, for the first time in the history of the US, to put a face on the people you see buried here," said Wright.

But through his years of research, Wright made some interesting discoveries.

"I found out that my great-great grandfather, Ceasar Jones, fought in the Civil War," he told us. "We looked at his grave and said, 'Hey, there's no headstone like this.'"

He means military headstones like others in the cemetery. So, Wright worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs to get a proper headstone. He got one for his great-great grandfather, but he didn't stop there.

"We said, 'Hey, if someone had the history of all of these soldiers, would we be able to bring headstones home to these graveyards throughout Beaufort County like the rest of them?' They sort of hummed and said yeah," said Wright.

Wright's Gravestone Initiative was born. Now Wright has 3,000 military headstones coming to cemeteries all over Beaufort County, inscribed with the names of black Civil War soldiers.

Thanks to years of Wright's hard work and research, these soldiers won't be forgotten. Now Wright is planning a big celebration this weekend to honor these soldiers.

James Smalls is a descendent of one of the soldiers and appreciates what Wright did.

"Being a veteran and knowing what it's like to be in war and stand up for our country, it makes me feel great that these war veterans are finally being recognized for what they've done," said Smalls. "If it weren't for these people we wouldn't be here today and that's the greatest thing in the world."

Wright is planning to take the Gravestone Initiative all over the state and throughout the country. That's why Howard Wright is a WTOC Hometown Hero.

Wright will hold a special ceremony this Saturday at the Beaufort National Cemetery to honor the black Civil War veterans. The ceremony begins at 11am.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com 

If you'd like to nominate a Hometown Hero, you can drop us a line at the station: PO Box 8086, Savannah, GA 31412, or email  us.

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