Selden S. Wright. It was indeed a distinguished lawyer and prominent citizen, an honored and old member of the Bar Association of San Francisco, to use the words of a resolution of that association passed commemorate the memory and career of Selden S. Wright when he died in the City of Alameda February 26, 1893. Judge Wright was a typical gentleman of the old southern regime, a man of high ideals and a lawyer of exceptional talent.


He was born in Essex County, Virginia, March 7, 1822, and was seventy-one years of age when he died. He represented an old Virginia family.  He graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1842, and was admitted to the bar in 1843. During the same year he removed to Mississippi and entered upon the practice of law in partnership with Hon. Walker Brooke, who later became United States senator. He continued his private practice until 1851, when he was elected vice chancellor of the Middle District of Mississippi and was reelected in 1855. In his early manhood Judge Wright married Miss Joanna Maynard Shaw, niece of Hon. Walker Brooke. She was likewise born in Virginia, daughter of Rev. Oliver Abbott Shaw, a prominent clergyman of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and was for a number of years rector of the old historic St. Mark’s Church in the City of Philadelphia. Mrs. Wright, after coming to California, became known as a woman of distinctive culture. She was the organizer in California of the Society of the Colonial Dames, and also had the distinction of organizing the First Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy west of the Rocky Mountains.


Judge and Mrs. Wright became the parents of twelve children. Eight are now living; Stuart Selden Wright, Ann Brooke Wright, George T. Wright, Eliza, wife of John D. Tallant; Ralph K., Roberta W., who is Mrs.  George Hellman; William Hammond Wright and Brooke Wright. The mother of these children passed away at the age of eighty-nine.

The services and activities that made the name of Selden S. Wright so well known and honored in his profession and in public affairs in California are concisely described in the resolution of the Bar Association previously mentioned, of which may appropriately be quoted here:

“In 1859, having resigned the office of vice-chancellor in Mississippi, he started for California, reaching San Francisco in 1860. Here he soon attracted the attention of his brethren of the bar by his learning and courteous bearing, and became associated in practice at different times with Hon. F. Swift, D. P. Belknap, Esq., and Gen. George A. Nourse, and later with his sons, Stuart S. and George T. Wright, Esq.

“In 1866 he received the democratic nomination for district attorney of this city and county, but was defeated with his party; in 1869 he was elected probate judge of this city, and served with distinguished ability the full term of four years. In 1869 he received the democratic nomination for supreme judge, but was defeated by Hon. A. L. Rhodes. In 1875 he was appointed judge of the County Court to fill a vacancy by Gov.  Newton Booth, a republican, and was elected by the people to the same office on the expiration of his term. In 1869 he was appointed a member of the Board of Supervisors of this city by Mayor E. B. Pond, and held office until the end of his term.

“We have thus briefly sketched the career and noted the important offices which our brother held. That he displayed in the discharge of the onerous and various duties imposed upon him by his fellow citizens rare tact and learning, high integrity and fairness is the testimony of all who came in contact with him.

“Indeed, his courtesy and unfailing good temper were proverbial, and yet no judge on the bench ever maintained better order or secured greater respect from litigants and lawyers. During an occupancy of the bench for more than ten years, and when great estates were involved, your committee can recall no single instance of unseemly conduct in his presence.

“But it was in his home and among his family and intimates that our friend appeared at his best and drew all hearts toward him. His hospitality, his generosity, his wide charity and kindly wisdom will long be remembered and appreciated by those who knew him best and loved him most.

“In the death of Judge Wright, the legal profession has lost one of its foremost members, the bench one of its ablest administrators, and the people an official devoted to their true interests.” Signed by the committee of the Bar Association, Columbus Bartlett, E. D. Sawyer and Thos.  F. Barry.

Transcribed by Marla Fitzsimmons.


Source: History of the San Francisco Bay Region Vol. 3 page 55 by Millard. Published by The American Historical Society, Inc. 1924.


© 2004 Marla Fitzsimmons.


California Biography Project


San Francisco County


California Statewide


Golden Nugget Library