The Honorable Harry O. Bright, Jr. peacefully departed this life on August 4, 2023. Harry Orlo Bright, Jr. was born in Washington, DC on June 28, 1929, to Vivien King and Harry O. Bright, Sr. His parents were both graduates of Howard University. Harry and his younger brother Bill were raised in Winston-Salem, NC. Harry studied violin and was a concert master in his high school orchestra and treasured the experience of his early education at the Palmer Memorial Institute.
Harry’s first two years of college were at Howard University where he was a member of the choir, the orchestra and track team. Harry transferred to Seton Hall University on an athletic scholarship, where he competed with distinction, served as co-captain of the track team during his senior year and earned his Bachelor of Science in Education. Harry joined the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. at Seton Hall University in 1949 and later joined the Beta Alpha Alpha Graduate Chapter in White Plains NY where he also became a Life Member.
While in the Army from 1951 to 1953, he was a member of the All-Army and All-Service track teams. Harry won the 440 yard hurdle title and was a member of the RX 440 yard championship relay team. Following his discharge from the military, Harry taught in the New York City Public School system and at the same time continued his career as an athlete, competing in national and international meets in Europe, Asia and Africa.
On July 9, 1955, Harry married Rebecca Waller with whom he had two children, David and Miriam, and enjoyed 68 years of marriage. Beck, as he affectionately called her, was truly the love of his life.
After receiving his MA Degree in Comparative International Education from New York University in 1958, he went to Cambodia to work for the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Exchange. He trained local teachers in Physical Education methodology and served as National Track and Field Coach. While there, he wrote Track and Field for Beginners, the first sports book to be translated into the Cambodian language. Its French translation was used in the French-speaking countries of Africa, where Harry also worked.
After retiring his running shoes, Harry turned his athletic focus to perfecting his game of golf. A distinguished member of the National Negro Golf Association, his passion for sport was nurtured over the next six decades either by playing and winning tournaments or encouraging others to learn to play and enjoy the sport and fellowship of golfers.
Harry held many positions of responsibility and leadership throughout his life in White Plains. He taught Physical Education at Mount Vernon Public Schools and was proud to see many of his students go on to live successful, fulfilling lives. For five years, he worked with the National Conference of Christians and Jews as Associate Director of New York City. Harry went on to serve on the White Plains Common Council from 1975 to 1979, the first African American to serve in an elected capacity for the City of White Plains. After 14 years in marketing with Eastman Chemical Products, Harry returned to his love for the community, taking the position as Director of the White Plains Commission on Human Rights which he proudly held for over 12 years.
Harry’s service to the community took a myriad of forms. He was a Past President of the Rotary Club of White Plains; a Paul Harris Fellow; the President of the Association of Local Human Rights Agencies of New York State; and President and Co-Founder of the White Plains Coalition for Cultural and Racial Harmony. Harry served on the Boards of the White Plains YMCA; the Greater White Plains Council of Community Services; and the United Way of Westchester and Putnam Counties. He received Community Service Awards from the Salvation Army and the White Plains Historical Society. Harry was a Senior Trustee of the Chatterton Hill United Church of Christ. From 2004 to 2007, he was the Chairman of the Board of United Way of Westchester and Putnam. Harry was honored with many proclamations and recognitions from city and state officials throughout his career.
Throughout it all, Harry maintained his love for music by playing violin as a member of the Westchester Community Orchestra and the New Westchester Symphony Orchestra.
Harry was preceded in death by his son, David Michael Bright, in 2022 and by his wife, Beckie, on May 21, 2023. He is survived by his daughter, Miriam Kay Bright, and her husband, Clifford Thomas of Los Angeles; his nephews, Andre Bright of Wake Forest, NC, Brenda Bright of Durham, NC and their daughters, Victoria and Vanessa Bright; Dr. Cedric Bright and his wife, Maria Bright, and their son, Andrew Bright of Greenville, NC; Charles Harkless and his wife, Aileen Hefferren, and their sons, Owen and Perry Hefferren-Harkless of Harlem, NY; Guy Harkless and his wife, Bertha French, and their children, Josephine, Gabrielle and Philippe Harkless of St. Petersburg, FL; his brother-in-law, Ronald Springwater of Washington, DC as well as family members Nathaniel Lynn and the late Felicia Thomas Lynn and their two children, Tatyana and Nathan.
In lieu of flowers and as a lasting tribute, the family kindly instead prefers a contribution may be made in Harry’s name to The White Plains Beautification Foundation or to any other organization of your choice with which he was affiliated.
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|The Rotary Club of White Plains is Club 5043, District 7230, Zone 32, Region USCB, Federal tax ID 13-6111471. The "Foundation of the Rotary Club of White Plains" is tax exempt, New York State #219346, tax ID 13-6165380. The Rotary Club of White Plains was chartered October 1, 1919, charter number 540. Mailing address: P.O. Box 1712, White Plains NY 10602. Website created August 2001.
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