Warren Wesley Bright, 75, dies in Springfield Gardens

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Longtime Springfield Gardens resident and former New York City transit detective Warren Wesley Bright died in his home Jan. 19 after a short illness. He was 75.

Bright was involved with athletics - track and field in particular - throughout his life. In 1942, while a student at James Monroe High School in the Bronx, Bright was the national quarter-mile champion and was the PSAL champion and record holder that same year.

"He was a very generous person. There wasn't anything he wouldn't do for someone else," said his daughter, Juanita Bright.

Bright was born in Norfolk, Va., but moved with his family to Manhattan in 1932. He attended the Bronx high school, however, because it boasted the fastest runners in the city, said his wife, Celeste. While at Monroe, he set numerous city and state records and in 1942 won the national quarter-mile competition at Madison Square Garden.

Celeste Bright said track and field was her husband's lifelong passion.

"Warren was a great runner," said Bronx resident Clarence Williams, who first met Bright at a high school track meet and developed a longstanding friendship with him through track meets and functions throughout six decades.

"Things have changed so much since then - now they consider the 440 a sprint," Williams said.

The 440 is the specialty of American Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson, who shattered previous records in the race. Williams said in the early 1940s races were measured in yards, not meters.

The two lost touch for a while, both serving in the armed forces during World War II. Bright was honorably discharged from the Army in 1945 and attended City College, where he joined the track team and also became involved in the New York Pioneer Club, a racially mixed amateur track club that traveled around the country participating in meets.

Bright coached youth in the Pioneer Club until the early 1990s. Williams said Bright was happy to offer inner city youth a chance to compete and excel.

He coached several teams to prominence, and once coached the U.S. Youth Games 800-meter national champion.

Bright was the former chairman of the Municipal Credit Union, which represents all city employees.

He was cited by several mayors, including Mayor Robert Wagner (1954-1965) for his work with the transit police and was cited for distinguished police duty and bravery.

He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Celeste, daughters Pamela and Juanita, a son Wesley, and grandchildren Dannah, Terence, and Adham as well as three great grandchildren.

The Brights moved to Springfield Gardens 33 years ago, and have been active members in Christ the King Roman Catholic Church in Springfield Gardens.

Funeral services were held at the church Monday. Bright was buried at Calverton National Cemetery.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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