The lessons Mary Bright wants to impart from her father’s tragic and untimely death have more to do with how he lived, rather than how he died.
Authorities have charged a 15-year-old boy in last month’s killing of 85-year-old Proctor Bright, a community legend in Ridgeland, S.C.
“He was a community advocate for love and fellowship of people,” Mary Bright, a longtime Rincon resident, said.
Bright was so highly thought of in Jasper County that the state even made March 29, 2007, Proctor Bright Day, the only person in Jasper County to ever be so honored, his daughter said.
He and his daughter were beginning to make plans for the next Proctor Bright Day, though he wanted something different for next year.
“He wanted me to put on the Web site we were changing it to ‘Hands Across the Community Day,’ and not Proctor Bright Day,” Mary said. “He felt strongly about the significance of fellowship and not about him being recognized.”
Bright’s life was put into words in a collection of short stories he and his daughter compiled, entitled “Whistle for the Wind,” that detail his upbringing and endeavors in South Carolina.
The book has been out for a year and a half. Mary Bright had left her job at Georgia-Pacific after 18 years to work full-time on the book. Proctor Bright had shot a commercial for it two days before he was killed in his Ridgeland home.
The Brights also co-founded a non-profit organization called “He Whispered A Dream.” With that, they bought Bibles to give to youths, which they started doing in April 2007. They purchased the Teen Extreme versions, which are about $25 each, but are geared for teen and young readers.
“We don’t buy shirts. We don’t buy food. We buy Bibles,” Mary said. “It’s $25, but it is the one children will read. If these children only had one shot, we wanted to give them the best one.”
They also have bought and distributed Bibles for the Effingham Prison and other places, she said.
“It’s ironic he was killed by an at-risk kid,” Mary Bright said. “And that was our target.”
Proctor Bright also wanted to start a village for older citizens, one where they could feel safe and useful, providing them garden plots and animals. Proctor Bright even had identified the tract of land he wanted to donate it.
“My father was quite a visionary,” Mary said. “We had done extensive work on greenhouse-type living. We had gotten quite a bit of information on hydroponics and aquaponics.”
He also wanted to build a municipal auditorium in Ridgeland.
“He wanted something so that families could bring their guitars and their banjos and sing and have family nights,” Mary said.
Building was something the elder Bright knew all about and taught himself. By the time he was 36, he had built a house for his family, a house for his in-laws, a house for his mother and a two-story apartment to rent out.
“And he did it with no loans and with no debt,” his daughter said.
The book also has a copy of the honorable discharge he received from the Army and a copy of a letter from President Truman. It also has his recipe for courtship and real love and advises people to be careful what they pray for.
“He prayed for all boys,” Mary Bright said. “And I’m his fifth daughter.”
Bright said her father was a Christian and loved Jesus Christ, but he didn’t like organized religion.
“Every day we pray to be a benefit to the Kingdom of God and the Lord to use us in whatever way he sees necessary,” she said. “He said to me that Paul was his favorite disciple, because he knew how to live with a little and how live with a lot. He said (Paul) got cut in half before he left here, and he said, ‘How you live here is not always how you leave here.’
“I want people to understand that God works us for the betterment of the Kingdom of God.”