San Diego lost a giant on Tuesday night. Ernie Wright was a giant of a man as a three-time All-AFL All-Star offensive lineman for the Chargers and a bigger man later in life for his work in the San Diego community.
Wright, 67, was battling a form of cancer in his bladder that spread to his lungs.
One of Wright’s lasting legacies is he established Pro Kids Golf Academy and Learning Center was founded in 1994. The non-profit organization is a golf and life-skills program for inner-city youth. More than 11,000 children have benefited from the program with 50 Pro-Kids members receiving $421,090 in college scholarships.
Pro Kids was the model for the World Golf Foundation’s The First Tee national program. There are now 250 chapters throughout the United State and five international chapters.
Wright was one of the original Chargers when the franchise moved south from Los Angeles in 1961 as an American League Football franchise that was the city’s entry into major-league pro sports.
The Hall of Champions (my day job) honored Wright on Feb. 13 at the 61st annual Viejas Salute to the Champions dinner as the first recipient of an award named in his honor, the Ernest H. Wright Sr. Humanitarian Award. The award, modeled after baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award, recognizes athletes demonstrating commitment to their community.
“I apologize for sitting here, because I’m not feeling well,” Wright said the night of the Salute dinner as MC Dick Enberg handed him a microphone. “But nothing would have kept me from being here tonight. I am moved to have this honor given in my name in perpetuity.”