Special to South Florida Times
You could say that music and entertainment were in Rosa Akins Braddy-Wright’s genes.
Her daughter Bessie Regina Norris, better known as Betty Wright, is probably one of the most famous R & B singers in the area.
Her extended family included Robert “Kool” Bell of Kool and the Gang, actor Richard Roundtree and the late comedian Moms Mabley.
Even Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson counts in that genealogy.
Wright died Sept. 5 at North Shore Medical Center in Miami. She was 85.
Mother Rosa Wright, as she was better known, was a stage mother and a member of the First Born Church of the Living God in Overtown in the late 1940s. She took her children to church at least three days a week.
She taught them how to sing together in harmony and from 1948 to 1957, she accompanied them on the guitar.
They performed gospel music together on the street in Overtown, Liberty City, Perrine and Coconut Grove and in theaters and churches all over Miami and across Florida.
She named the gospel group the Echoes of Joy and groomed the members to record their first album in 1956. The collection included one of the songs that she wrote for her son, Phillip, then 11, called I’ll Keep Toiling On, and Down by the Riverside, arranged by two of her sons, Charles, 14, playing the guitar, and Milton, 13. The other members were Jeannette, 8, and Michael, 4.
Betty, then less than 3 years of age, sang on that recording.
Echoes of Joy was the host gospel singing group for many nationally known gospel groups whenever they performed in Miami. They included the Caravans, Davis Sisters, Staple Singers with Shirley Caesar, the Five Blind Boys, and the Swan Silvertones.
Years later, Wright toured the U. S. and Europe watching her children perform during the 1960s through the 1980s until she became ill.
Born in Cairo, Ga., Wright was the last surviving member of a family of nine siblings. She saw many changes in Miami and Florida and after she moved to the state in 1936.
She raised her children in the James E. Scott housing complex from 1950 to 1972, when she moved to the El Portal neighborhood in Miami. She was among three African Americans who moved into that area, including comedian Flip Wilson.
But Wright was known also as a nursing pioneer. She was one of a handful of African-American nurses at Mount Sinai Medical Center from 1960-65. She passed the Nurses State Board Exam with the highest score, graduating from Nursing School at then Miami-Dade Junior College.
She wanted to become a doctor, but dropped the idea when she started a family.
During the late 1950s. she also helped organize many of the families in the Scott complex to obtain their voter registration cards and learn more about voting in order to cast their ballots. At that time, Wright was an active member of the PTA at her children’s school.
Wright married Milton Wright Sr. in 1940 and they had four children: Charles Wright, Judge Milton Wright Jr., Dr. Phillip Wright Sr. and Jeannette Wright. After her divorce, she married McArthur Norris and they had two children, the late Michael Norris and Betty.
She is survived by five of her seven children, 17 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren. Her nieces and nephews number around 100.
Photo: Rosa Akins Braddy-Wright