Line of Duty Death

Doc Wright Photo

Patrolman Edgar B. “Doc” Wright

June 27, 1898 to February 21, 1938

Patrolman Edgar B. Wright, known to all of Westfield as “Doc,” of 114 Cowperthwaite Place, died on Tuesday, February 22, 1938, as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty on Monday, February 21, 1938, when his motorcycle was involved in a collision with a car at the intersection of North and Dudley Avenues. 

In addition to a concussion of the brain, both of Patrolman Wright’s legs were broken and he suffered internal injuries.  He was taken by town ambulance to Muhlenberg Hospital, where he died at 6:10 AM on the following morning after an operation to save one shattered leg. 

Patrolman Wright, 39, had been a member of the Westfield Police Department for 15 years.

According to an article published in the Elizabeth Daily News on Thursday, February 24, 1938, the driver of the car, Walter Frazer, 63, of 122 Farley Avenue, Fanwood, was arraigned on a charge of causing death by operation of a motor vehicle and was held on $1,500 bail.

Patrolman Wright, the son of the late Dr. Joseph E. Wright, was born in Morristown on June 27, 1898 and moved to Westfield with his family in 1903.  He attended Westfield High School and Pennsylvania Military College. 

Patrolman Wright served for 2 years on the force after leaving college, but then left for a time.  He was re-appointed to the force on January 18, 1925, and had served as a Patrolman until his death.

Patrolman Wright always rode the motorcycle while on duty, and he was known for his utter impartiality towards violators.  A ticket from Patrolman Wright was virtually the same as a conviction, as he never issued an underserved summons.  He took his work seriously and was respected locally for his fairness.

Following his accident, the police station handled innumerable calls from local and out-of-town friends inquiring for his condition.  Many people visited the station personally to ask about him. 

“Doc” was one of Westfield’s traditions.  Residents remembered him as an expert athlete in his youth.  He was prominent in football, wrestling and boxing, and appeared in exhibitions frequently at the YMCA and other sporting centers.  He had two hobbies in recent years: bowling and motorcycles. 

“Doc” enjoyed the reputation of being a “tough” cop, but to his many, many friends who saw beneath his “tough” exterior, there was heart as big as a house.  He was particularly fond of children, and his charities at Christmas time in their behalf were known only to his most intimate associates.

In the tragic death of Patrolman Wright, the Westfield Police Department lost one if its most capable members.  He died in the performance of his duty, a duty which, to him, was always of paramount importance.  No police force ever had a more conscientious member than he.  His integrity and zeal won for him the high respect of his fellow officers, as well as town officials.

Then Chief of Police John R. Schreiber, in a statement, offered high praise for Patrolman Wright.  “His fine sense of duty and responsibility, his willingness in undertaking any job given him, his loyalty to his oath of office and his efficiency in the discharge of his duty has been and will be an inspiration for us all.  Officer Wright’s fine reputation was known and respected not only in Westfield, but in all parts of the county and the state.  He was widely known in police and other circles as a man of outstanding ability and possessing a high sense of fairness.  He was fearless and fair in the discharge of his duties regardless of how distasteful they may have been to him personally, but he was never accused of being unjust.  There can be no higher praise for a police officer than this.  The police department has lost a valuable member and the town an officer of the law and a personality that will be sorely missed.”

Patrolman Wright was survived by his mother, Mrs. Henrieca Wright of Walnut Street, his wife, Mrs. Edith Wright, two sons, Edgar B. Jr. and David Wright, both of Westfield, two brothers, Henry O. Wright of Westfield and George L. Wright of St. Louis, and a sister, Miss Alice Wright of New York City. 

Following impressive funeral rites held on Thursday, February 24, 1938 at Gray’s Funeral Home which was attended by hundreds, Patrolman Wright was buried during a private interment the following Saturday morning in Fairview Cemetery.  Members of the force served as pallbearers.

Let us never forget a fallen officer.

Doc Wright Log Book Entry

Above is the log book entry from Patrolman Edgar "Doc" Wright's crash. The transcribed text is shown below:

Feb 21 - 932 a.m. Received an anonymous call that Officer Wright had been injured at North Ave, and Dudley Ave.  Immediately detailed Detective C. Benninger to investigate, and also detailed Sergt. Deter in Car P.

945 a.m. Sergt. Deter brought in Walter Frazer age 63, of 122 Farley Ave, Fanwood N.J. Dri #1193646 N.J, who was driving a Ford sedan Reg # U-59485 N.J. owned by Frazer.

Frazer stated that he was proceeding east on North Ave, as he was turning left into W. Dudley Ave, had collision with motorcycle Reg # M.C. 5894 N.J., owned by the Town of Westfield, N.J., driven by Officer Edgar Wright, Driver’s license #M.C. 5116 N.J., who was proceeding west on North Ave.

Upon Detective Benninger’s arrival at the scene, he found Officer Wright in a dazed condition, on the sidewalk in front of 910 North Ave, and was bleeding from the nose, and had both legs broken, one of same being considerably lacerated.

Detective Benninger, upon his return from the hospital brought to headquarters Officer Wright’s personal effects consisting of a note book, white gold Elgin wrist watch, pen knife, sixty cents, blue sweater, blue shirt, tie, socks and underclothing, and also his police uniform and equipment, consisting of coat, trousers, cap, puttees, and revolver, police shield #7, and police whistle, all of which are in the custody of Detective C. Benninger. Sergt. Deter reported that upon his arrival at the scene of accident, the motorcycle was laying on the sidewalk in front of 910 North Ave, and the car was against the curb facing southeast, at the northeast corner of North Ave, and W. Dudley Ave.

Called and instructed J.L. Klase of Rahway N.J. to take photographs at the scene of accident.  After the photographs had been taken, called M. Mastrian of the Park Garage, instructing him to tow Frazer’s car to his garage for the purpose of testing the condition of his brakes.  Mastrian tested same, and reported them be in good condition.  Sergt. Deter reported that the front of Frazer’s car was damaged near the left side, and its left front wheel was broken.  And the motorcycle, which was damaged considerably, was conveyed to headquarters in a town truck.  Detailed Sergt. Pfirrman in Car Q, to notify Mrs. E. Wright of the occurrence.  1150 am Frazer was arraigned before Recorder A.C. Nash, and was released in his own custody, pending Officer Wright’s condition.

A statement from Frazer was obtained by Lieut. Miller, assisted by Philomena.

Lieut. Miller.

Feb - 22 - at 600 a.m. Sergt. Long received a call from the Muhlenberg Hospital authorities reporting that Officer E. Wright had expired.

Feb 23 - 1152 a.m. J.J. Higgins of Higgins Funeral Home at 209 W. 8th St, Plainfield N.J. brought in a gold tie clasp and a pencil, which had been among Officer Wright’s personal effects.

Lieut. Miller.