2000 Pioneer Lecturer
Mahlon Lewis Wright, Jr.

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Mahlon Lewis Wright, Jr., was born in Sanford, Florida, on March 11, 1919, the son of Mahlon Lewis Wright and Blanche Johns Wright. His father was a celery grower. He was married to Mary B. Riskis on August 25, 1944, in Hollywood, California. They have three daughters: Gail, Pamela, and Dianne; all living in Winter Haven, Florida.

Lewis Wright completed his primary education at Sanford, Florida, graduating from Seminole High School in 1936. In high school, he played the violin and viola in the orchestra and slide trombone in the band. Following graduation, he became an Eagle Scout and served as a scoutmaster for two successive troops in the Sanford area. He organized and directed an Audubon bird expedition to the Dry Tortugas (1938) where he banded more than 3000 juvenile sooty terns for the Department of the Interior. Roger Tory Peterson, eminent bird authority and naturalist, also attended one of the weeklong trips.

From 1937 to 1939, Lewis Wright attended Stetson University on a music scholarship, studied pre-med for two years, and played the trombone in the concert band and violin and viola in the symphony. He was inducted into the Kappa Kappa Psi honorary band fraternity and assisted in the science laboratory classes. During a college break, he worked in Sanford at the W. Atlee Burpee Seed Company.

Lewis Wright enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve Medical Corps in 1941, and served in the southwestern Pacific and California as a chief pharmacist mate. After the war, he directed a seed laboratory for W. Atlee Burpee Seed Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for two years before attending the University of Florida. He received his BS (1949) and MS (1951) degrees with high honors and honors, respectively, both in entomology and plant pathology. He was inducted into the Alpha Zeta fraternity, Phi Sigma Honorary Society, and Newell Entomological Society. He worked as a laboratory assistant and conducted vegetable crop insect research with chlordane and methyl bromide for controlling cigarette beetles in wrapper tobacco bales.

After receiving his university education, Lewis Wright engaged in agricultural chemical research and development as a technical field representative for Florida Agricultural Supply Co. in Jacksonville. He developed the first chemical price list designed for the Florida pest control industry. He also furnished special custom pesticides for the mosquito control districts. He subsequently became the acting entomologist with the Bureau of Entomology, State Board of Health to enforce the Florida pest control law of 1949 (1955-1959). In 1956 Wright was legally declared a State’s expert witness in pest control by the State Attorney General for hearings held before the Structural Pest Control Board. He returned to the private sector as general manager and entomologist of a large pest control firm in Winter Haven and Clearwater, Florida (1959-1970).

Lewis Wright established his current business, Wright Pest Control, Inc. in Winter Haven, Florida, in 1970 and continued his active membership in the Elks Lodge, Lions Club, and Florida Southern College Beta Beta biological fraternity. He served as an adjunct Professor at Winter Haven Junior College, presented many talks on pest management, joined the national pest management association, and authored more than ten manuals for industry guidance and reference. He became a member of the Florida Nurseryman and Growers Association, Salvation Army Advisory Board, American Legion, Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce, Pi Chi Omega fraternity, advisory committee for the Florida A&M University Department of Entomology, Associated Pest Control Services, Inc. (a special select group of about 65 national pest control persons), Florida Pest Control Association, Royal Entomological Society of London, and committee to establish a pest control research chair at the University of Florida, Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Lewis Wright is a pioneer in his profession, a community and industry leader, and an honored colleague. He has continued his leadership activities as an Entomological Society of America, Board Certified Entomologist, member of Kiwanis Club of Winter Haven, and supporter of Habitat for Humanity. He received the special Hixon Award for supporting the Kiwanis International iodine deficiency correction project and the Kiwanis Legion of Honor Award for over 40 years of service. He has held many high offices in most of these organizations to which he belongs and has been presented with numerous special awards for his dedicated service to entomology, the pest management industry, and society.

Mahlon Lewis Wright, Jr. is a distinguished member and past president of the Florida Entomological Society. He was the first president to conduct an international Caribbean Conference of Entomology, held in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Lewis Wright was selected as the year 2000 Florida Entomological Society Pioneer Lecturer to honor Dr. John T. Creighton, first chairman of the University of Florida, Department of Entomology and Nematology and one of his mentors.

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6/23/00  Lewis Wright, Norm Leppla, and Richard Mankin