Josephine Wright, who took on Hilton Head developer, dies at 94
Fight for ancestral land drew celebrity support, including from Tyler Perry
Josephine Wright, who garnered national attention and celebrity support after a real estate developer launched a lawsuit against her in South Carolina last year, died on Jan. 7. She was 94.
Wright’s granddaughter, Charise Graves, disclosed the matriarch’s death on a GoFundMe page dedicated to Wright’s legal fight, the New York Times reported. A cause of death was not revealed, but Graves wrote that she was surrounded by family and loved ones.
Last year, the then-93-year-old found herself on defense when Bailey Point Investment sued her, alleging that Wright’s satellite dish, shed and screened porch trespassed on the developer’s land. Wright claimed the lawsuit was an attempt by the Georgia entity — linked to developer McKinley Homes — to bully her into selling her Hilton Head Island property.
Bailey Point is developing a 29-acre, 147-unit project on land surrounding Wright’s nearly 2-acre home. The property had been in Wright’s family since the Civil War and traced roots to the Gullah Geechee people, descendents of enslaved Africans on the lower Atlantic coast who formed creole culture and language.
Hilton Head’s popularity as a post-pandemic destination has led developers to the island and threatened affordability for local residents and the displacement of Black families. The town declined to issue building permits for Bailey Point as the legal battle raged. The lawsuit was expected to go into mediation in the fall, but it’s status today is unclear.
Wright’s legal saga drew the attention of celebrities from across the country. Rapper Snoop Dogg donated $10,000 to her fundraiser, while NBA star Kyrie Irving donated $40,000. Rapper Meek Mill also offered support, and filmmaker Tyler Perry offered to build her a new five-bedroom house on her property.
Perry was among those paying tribute to Wright after she died, writing on Instagram that Wright “inspired” him.
Wright is survived by seven children, 40 grandchildren, 50 great-grandchildren and 16 great great-grandchildren.
— Holden Walter-Warner