Nacogdoches business owner, philanthropist Charles Bright dies

Charles Bright
Charles Bright

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Beloved Nacogdoches business owner, community leader, and philanthropist Charles Bright died Saturday at the age of 86. Bright and his brother, N.G., founded Nacogdoches' Bright Coop Company, which manufactures poultry transportation equipment.

Services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday at the First Christian Church in Nacogdoches. Rev. Rex Humphreys, Rev. Terry Hodge, and Dr. Allen Reed will officiate.

A Nacogdoches native, Bright was born on March 22, 1927, to George Novel and Dovie Bailey Bright. After he graduated from Nacogdoches High School in 1945, Bright went to work full-time in his father's grocery business.

He was drafted into the U.S. Army in September 1945, and he served as a military policeman until he was honorably discharged. While he was serving in the military, he served as the driver and typist for William F. Buckley Jr.

Following his stint in the military, Bright started up an outboard motor and boat business. According to his obituary, he was instrumental in developing and patenting the Loco Lure.

However, Bright is probably most well known for founding the Bright Coop Company and his leadership in the community. The company's chicken cage unloading system became the predominant one of its type in the United States, according to his obituary.

He served on the Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital Board for 16 years.

"He was chairman for many years and helped develop Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital into one of the outstanding hospitals in East Texas," his obituary stated. "He authored a book about his famous Kalouse goose who saved the Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital a considerable amount of money."

On April 1, 1967, Bright married Lois Mari Gibbs Dover, who preceded him in death on March 21, 2006. He married his childhood friend, Carolyn Muckleroy Price, on Aug. 15, 2009.

The Bright Pavilion at Nacogdoches Memorial was named in Bright's honor.

According to Bright's obituary, two of his favorite projects were the "Plaza Principal" project on the downtown square and the restoration of the Ingraham Building, which was originally home to his father's grocery business. He was also involved in downtown projects like the placement of antique street lights, planters, statues, and historical markers.

In December 2010, Bright and the other board members of the Charles and Lois Marie Bright Foundation met with Nacogdoches Mayor Roger Van Horn and set things in motion for the "Gateway Statue" that was erected on the north east corner of Nacogdoches' Plaza Principal on Feb. 12, 2013, the obituary stated.

On Aug. 8, the Nacogdoches City Council voted unanimously to name the visitors center the Charles Bright Historic Town Center in honor of his contributions to the town's downtown area. It was officially named on March 22, 2013, his 86th birthday.

A lifelong member of Nacogdoches' First Christian Church, Bright served as a Sunday School teacher, deacon, elder, chairman of the board, and trustee. He was also given the honor of Elder Emeritus by the church's members. He donated the Bright House to the church, and it is part of the church's current youth center.

Bright also volunteered with the Cub Scouts for years.

Bright's many awards and accolades include the  Deep East Texas Development Association's Silver Bucket Award for Regional Service (1996), the Nacogdoches Chapter of DAR's "Medal of Honor" for his "contributions of service to his country, community, church, and fellow man" (2006), the Nacogdoches Chamber of Commerce's "Large Business of the Year Award" (2007), the Nacogdoches Police Department's "Chief's Award as Citizen of the Year" (2010), and the "Agribusiness of the Year" (2012). In April 2012, he was honored with the "Nacogdoches Life Hero Award" for his contributions to the improvement of Nacogdoches' downtown area and his other many services to the community.

The obituary said in lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to First Christian Church Building Fund, 792 North Mound Street, 75961; Friends of Historic Nacogdoches, Inc., PO Box 630411, 75963; to the ALS Fund in care of 803 W. Seale Street, 75964, or to a charity of choice.

February was the last time Charles Bright was in the news. The statue he always wanted for downtown Nacogdoches was dedicated. Everyone knew the tribute was really for Bright.

"Charles Bright is pointing the way with his vision of a beautiful, livable Downtown Nacogdoches," said historian Ab Abernethy.

Today employees at Bright Coop Company, an international poultry cage unloading manufacturer, were busy at work. The company founder has been away for a while. Alzheimer's robbed him of all the memories he carefully preserved on every available office wall space.

"He's the only man that I know of that could stand in the square and go north, south, east and west and tell you who lived where," said Clem Russell, the vice president of Bright Coop. "He knew and loved Nacogdoches. He's never lived more than two miles from the center of Nacogdoches."
Bright cherished his products and his employees. He didn't have children, but he had his employees.

"The employees of Bright Coop he considered to be his children," Russell said.

A business deal was the start to a longtime friendship with Bo Pilgrim.

"I picked up the Coops up off the ground and handed them to him and he stacked them on that truck," Bright said in 2008. "And he has been a friend and our customer ever since."

Bright's  accomplishments and service to individuals and the community are too numerous to list. Those who knew bright will always remember. Those who didn't will be taught.

"They will think about a man who cared about his hometown, cared about downtown. How important it is to be called 'The Oldest Town In Texas'?" said Bright's sister, Joyce Swearingen in a February interview.

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