Feature

Logan Wright, PhD, sprinted through life at blinding speed whether setting records as a track star, writing books on pediatric psychology, developing a fast-food chain, running a ranch or serving as APA president.

"Logan's energy level was legendary among his friends," recalls Raymond D. Fowler, PhD, APA chief executive officer. "He could work hard all day, stay out until all hours cowboy dancing and be up for an early run the next morning."

A week before Christmas, the muscular giant suffered a massive heart attack while burning brush on his Norman, Okla., ranch. He died at age 66.

Wright left behind a host of friends, even some who disagreed with him during the strife that threatened to tear APA apart in the mid 1980s--a time when practitioners and scientists battled heatedly over what was best for the organization. A reorganization plan was voted down and Wright, chosen APA president in 1986, helped scientists march out of APA into the American Psychological Society (APS) to the disgruntlement of many members. Says Wright friend and former APA President Ron Fox, PhD: "Many friends in the practitioner community who had supported him through the years felt that he had abandoned them. We sent him to referee between practitioners and scientists and he joined the scientists."

Others viewed Wright as a man who did his best to keep APA together.

"Logan was a leader in the successful efforts to make APA more responsive to the needs of practitioners and to include them in APA governance," recalls Fowler. "He worked tirelessly to achieve a consensus plan for a reorganization that would be respectful of the needs of all constituencies. When that effort failed, he drifted away from APA and played a major role in the development of APS. As Wright saw it, his job was to prevent the crumbling of APA. Those efforts failed, Wright believed, because practitioners were angry at the old science-academic group, once the dominant voice of APA, and were not in a compromising mood. So he sided with the scientists.

"When Logan wanted something, he was the most single-minded person you could ever imagine," says Janet Spence, PhD, APA president in 1984. "He was intense." It is a measure of the man, though, that many who fought him vigorously in those years remained his friends.

Born to adversity

Wright, who thrived on controversy, confronted adversity long before the APA turbulence.

Born in Wellington, Kan., he faced the harsh reality of life at an early age. His father died when Logan was 6. During the next three years, the young boy lived with various relatives while his mother sought work. By age 9, he was united with her in Tulsa, where he lived until going off to college in 1952.

He was, however, an undistinguished high school student, and at one time thought of becoming a sheet metal worker. The money was good. But colleges sought him out because he was an all-state middle distance track star. He could have gone to the mammoth Oklahoma State but, instead, elected a much smaller school, Oklahoma Baptist.

"A lot of my friends went to Oklahoma State because it was nearby," he said in a 1986 Monitor interview, "but they were back home before the second semester began after flunking out. I thought that a big school would be overwhelming, and I had enough sense to choose a small liberal arts college."

At Oklahoma Baptist, he was three-time state collegiate mile champion and set school records at distances between 1,000 yards and 5,000 meters.

A much improved student as years went by, he earned a PhD in clinical psychology at Vanderbilt University. Although he immersed himself in pediatric psychology while on the faculty at Purdue University, after undergoing open-heart surgery in 1983 he shifted towards health psychology. Wright was an early believer in the concept that a Type-A behavior pattern had a definite link to cardiac rehabilitation.

He made a plan for himself after surgery. He told a Daily Oklahoman reporter in 1986, "The first day I was in intensive care, I got up and walked around the bed for one minute. I added one minute a day through the first month and after that, I started jogging."

Three years after surgery, he set a world age record at 52 for the 200-meter hurdles.

In the 1970s, Wright successfully invested in rural land and fast-food restaurants. He generated sizable assets working weekends while director of the division of pediatric psychology at the University of Oklahoma. In the mid-'70s, he had to choose between being a psychologist who dabbled in business or a businessman who practiced psychology on the side. He chose psychology, creating a charitable foundation and giving his assets to an organization that helps underprivileged college students.

Prolific writer

Wright was also an accomplished author, writing hundreds of articles and a number of books, including "Parent Power" (Bantam, 1978), a how-to book on childrearing.

Wright's wife, Kellie, remembers her husband as "a cowboy at heart."

"He wore a cowboy hat and boots all the time," she says. "He was a down-to-earth guy who never put on airs. A lot of people who knew him had no idea of his accomplishments. He just didn't talk about himself."

Besides his wife, Kellie, he leaves two sons, Brooks and Blaine, a daughter, Jay May and five grandchildren.

Further Reading

Contributions may be sent to the Logan Wright Foundation, c/o Wright, McAfee & Co., 3801 N.W. 63rd Road, Suite 260, Oklahoma City, OK 73116.