JOE, JR. WRIGHT
Inducted in 1955
Canadian and U.S. single scull championship titles
Silver medal, double sculls, Olympic Games
Bronze medal, eights, Olympic Games
Grey Cup - Toronto Argonauts
Aside from facing off against the best oarsmen in the world, Joe Wright, Jr. had the daunting challenge of following in the tremendous wake of his famous father. Joe Wright, Sr. had been a champion rower, collecting more than 130 titles over the course of his brilliant career. The younger Joe not only lived up to his father's name, but forged his own legend when, in 1928, he claimed his sport's most prestigious title, one of the only one's that had eluded Wright the elder: the Diamond Sculls at England's Henley Royal Regatta. Despite his father's tremendous record, Joe was not pushed into the sport. Throughout most of his son's adolescence, "Big Joe" was away coaching the University of Pennsylvania's rowing team. When 18-year old Wright began rowing with the junior crew at Toronto's Argonauts Rowing Club in 1924, he found that he had inherited his father's talent for the sport. That same year, at the Canadian Henley, he stroked the junior eights to victory over the best crews from both Canada and the United States, claiming the Hanlan Memorial Trophy. In 1925, Wright joined his father in Philadelphia where he helped Penn's crew take the Middle States Regatta title. Later that year, he discovered that he had a talent for sculling when he swept the American Henley, winning the junior, intermediate, and senior titles, and setting new records in each event. To top it off, he beat Walter Hoover, America's top sculler, in the quarter-mile race. In 1926, Wright, Sr. returned to Toronto and began preparing his son for the Diamond Sculls, the unofficial amateur world sculling championships. The 1927 Diamond Sculls race, however, proved to be one of the most disappointing events in Canadian sporting history. Wright brilliantly stroked his way through the preliminary heats and then took a solid lead over Oxford's R. Lee in the finals. But tragedy struck just a few yards before the finish line when Wright's oar became entangled in a rope dangling from a boom. As he frantically struggled to free it, Lee flashed by him to victory. True to character, Wright swallowed his bitter disappointment and returned to the North American competitive circuit. Later that year, he claimed both the Canadian and American single sculling championships. His performance at the Canadian Henley was particularly notable, as a tight schedule left him with a seemingly impossible task. Wright was set to compete against American champion Garret Gilmore in the quarter-mile race and then, less than half an hour later, square off against Pacific Coast champion, Adams, in the 550 yard event. Even Joe, Sr. was doubtful as to whether his son could pull through two grueling back-to-back events against the best rowers on the continent. Before the race, Joe calmly declared: "I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll go out and win the quarter mile from Gilmore and when that's over, I'll lick Adams." And so he did. Wright's unabashed self-confidence and immense perseverance paid off in 1928 when he returned to the Henley Royal Regatta. He met Lee once more in the finals but this time did not let victory elude him. He became the second Canadian to win the coveted Diamond Sculls title. Following this tremendous triumph, the Argonaut crews crossed the Channel to the Olympic Games in Amsterdam. Here, Wright, with partner Jack Guest, claimed a silver medal in the double sculls and helped the eights to a bronze. Wright competed in the Diamond Sculls again in 1929 and 1930 but was never able to replicate his great victory. When not on the waters around the Argonaut Rowing Club, Wright could be found on the field of the Argonaut Football Club. A strong snap and inside wing, Wright played for the Argos from 1924 to 1936, helping then claim the Grey Cup in 1933. Following his retirement from competition, Wright remained involved in both rowing and football as an executive, serving as president of the Argos in the 1960s and president of the CFL's Eastern Conference for several years.