James N. Wright

October 23, 1961 ~ March 5, 2020 (age 58)


James (Jim) Nelson Wright was born on October 23, 1961, the last of four children born to George Nelson Wright and Patricia Adele (Gilmer) Wright, who both preceded him in death. Jim attended Madison West High School, from which he graduated in 1979, and he continued on to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, graduating in 1983 with a degree in economics.

Among Jim’s many wonderful qualities, his sense of humor stands out strongest to those who knew and loved him. He had a quick wit and was able to make a joke in any situation, delivered in his trademark deadpan. Jim had a talent for filling rooms with laughter.

Jim was beloved by his nieces and nephews, who remember his easy humor and ability to make every situation fun and interesting. He took time to show each of them that they were important, sharing with them the music, places, and activities he loved, indulging their whims, and encouraging their interests. Time spent with Uncle Jim was time spent feeling special.

Jim was unusually—in some ways, astoundingly—intelligent. At the age of 9, he wrote a letter to then-President Richard Nixon, arguing against allowing the hunting of wolves in the lower 48 states. A lengthy and rigorous debate with the White House ensued, culminating in Jim’s disclosure of his age, which ended the discussion. He could do advanced mathematics quickly in his head, was a skilled (and sometimes ruthless) debater, and was a voracious reader who devoured several books a week.

Music was one of Jim’s passions. He had a special fondness for the Beatles, Pink Floyd (The Wall was a favorite), and Guns N’ Roses, and he loved to share his favorites, passing them on to the people he was close to and creating new fans in the process. Perhaps this love of song began during a childhood pre-grand opening trip to Disney World, where he fell in love with the It’s a Small World ride. He was also a discerning collector of LPs and Star Wars memorabilia.

Jim loved animals, particularly cats, and they provided a great deal of comfort and companionship for him. He was a loving and meticulous caregiver for the lucky felines he adopted over the years. He was also a dedicated environmentalist who loved spending time in nature. One hobby that satisfied both his love of nature and his love of sports was bicycling; he was an avid and speedy cyclist, often riding for hours at a time around town. And he got a lot of pleasure in cheering for the Packers and the Bucks.

Jim is survived by his brothers, John and Robert (Bob); sister, Elizabeth (Betsy); sister-in-law, Joy; brother-in-law, Chuck; nieces, Rachel and Emily; nephews, James and Hunter; and nieces-in-law, Kaitlyn and Joy.

Cremation services were performed by Ryan Funeral Home in Madison, and a memorial will be held in his honor in May, date and location to be determined at a later date. His family requests that donations be made in lieu of flowers to the Madison Cat Project (

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