Tom Wright has plenty of work to get done, even before he starts his day at the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Up at 5 a.m., Wright heads to his wife’s downtown Muskogee restaurant to prepare it for breakfast customers. He shows up in blue jeans, T-shirt and work shoes, then puts on an apron.
“I’m here at 6 a.m. to start peeling the potatoes, bake the potato casserole in the oven, get the coffee made, make sure the floors are swept and the ice is in the ice maker,” he said. “My main job is to get everything ready so they can serve breakfast easily.”
The restaurant, The Bite, opens at 7 a.m., he said. “I serve customers until our cook comes in around 8.”
Wright said he’s learned to cook a breakfast quiche, but his wife, Rebecka Wright, is the real cook. However, she’s busy getting their 9-year-old daughter, Zoe, ready for school.
“For me it’s easier to come here and work at 6 a.m. than it is to fix a 9-year-old girl’s hair,” Tom Wright said.
Around 8:30 or 9 a.m., Wright washes up and gets ready for his job at the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“I get my slacks on and change my cooking shoes and cooking shirt to my lawyer shirt and shoes,” Wright said.
Around noon, when he can, Wright takes a break and changes into workout clothes.
“I decided I wanted to run a marathon,” he said, expressing plans to train for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in April 2013.
“I run four days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays — and work out Tuesdays and Fridays,” Wright said. “I usually work out at the U.S. Marshals gym, but we also belong to the Swim and Fitness Center.”
Meet Tom Wright
CAREER: Assistant United States attorney, United States Attorney’s Office, civil division.
EDUCATION: Muskogee High School, 1996; University of Oklahoma, 2001; University of Oklahoma Law School, 2004.
FAMILY: Wife, Rebecka; stepdaughter, Zoe.
CHURCH: St. Paul United Methodist Church.
HOBBIES: Playing bass guitar, running, working out, reading, spending time with family.
place in life
Although he’s an attorney’s son, Tom Wright did not seek a law career at first.
“I had been planning to go to medical school, but it got to a point where a medical career didn’t make sense,” he said. “At first, I actually changed direction to be a professor, then in the middle of that, I decided to go to law school.”
He said practicing law “enables you to do good things for people, to help people.”
When he graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 2004, Wright worked for an insurance defense firm, then got a job handling medical malpractice for the Oklahoma City firm of Wiggins, Sewell and Ogletree.
He moved to Muskogee in 2007 to work with his father’s firm, Wright, Stout and Wilburn. In April 2011, he joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He said he mostly defends medical malpractice cases brought against government health providers such as a VA medical center or a tribal hospital.
“I like it because it’s intense. No two cases are the same,” he said. “I always have to learn about new procedures or conditions. And everyone wants to bring in an expert to testify. Last month I flew to Boston to get an expert. The month before that, I flew to Tampa. I’m going to Houston next month.”
Wright said he enjoys his work because he can help taxpayers.
“At the end of the day, it’s the taxpayers funding this judgment,” he said, adding that he seeks to get the judgments as low as possible, or no cost at all.
love of music
Sunday mornings, Wright plays bass guitar during the informal FUEL worship service at St. Paul United Methodist Church’s Fellowship Hall.
Wright developed his love of guitar and bass music in high school and rekindled it about two years ago.
“In high school, I started guitar lessons from a guitar player, Mike Antle, and I got to love playing music,” Wright said. “But Mike died when I was in high school and I quit playing. He was pretty young, 26, when he died in a motorcycle accident.”
Then, a couple of years ago, his stepdaughter, Zoe, got a guitar from Santa Claus, Wright said.
“So I started playing with her,” he said. “I had to re-learn and re-teach a lot of things. Get my callouses back on my fingers.”
About 13 months ago, an old high school friend was looking for a bass player for his group. Then, last summer, the church came calling.
“Ron Boren asked if we wanted to play with the group because they lost a band member to graduation,” Wright said.
The FUEL band practices when members can get together Sunday afternoons and Tuesdays, he said.
“Then, from 7:45 to 8 a.m. Sunday, we warm up for the service,” he said.
Wright contrasted playing bass and guitar.
“When you’re playing bass, you’re the connection between the drums and the guitar,” he said. “You hit the bass notes on one or two strings at a time.”
People are more likely to play chords on guitars than on basses, he said. “The bass is the lowest four strings on the guitar.”
A marriage of
food and art
Over the past year, Tom and Rebecka Wright changed a former art gallery into a downtown restaurant. But they keep with that art gallery idea.
“My wife had managed restaurants in Oklahoma City before we moved back here,” Wright said. “She started cooking for people just out of our house in January of 2012, and it just took off to where there was too much demand to do it in our home.”
The Wrights found an available space along Broadway in downtown Muskogee. The Lovie and Dodge giftware and design studio used to be in one part. A tattoo parlor took another space.
“My wife did the lion’s share of the work,” he said. “She’d track down the refrigerators, buy stoves, vents and three-basin sinks. She learned all the health codes. It was a big job for her.”
Contractors removed nearly all the plaster from an east wall, exposing bare brick. A square of plaster was painted with blackboard paint and is used as the restaurant’s menu board.
Wright said The Bite seeks to promote local artists by featuring different works each week. He said that after the restaurant opened they asked Roger Davis, part owner of Lovie and Dodge, to show his works. Each month, the restaurant displays work of a different Muskogee artist.
HOW DID YOU BECOME AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?
“I was born here, and my mom is from here. My dad went to Vietnam and was in the JAG (Judge Advocate General) Corps. When he got out, Joe Kennedy, who was an attorney here, offered him a job. After law school, I came back to Muskogee from Oklahoma City because I wanted to be closer to family.”
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?
“The family atmosphere. It’s a great place to raise a family. There are a lot of creative people here, which we discovered doing the art shows at the restaurant.”
WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?
“More people being involved in community activities, maybe. A lot of people in Muskogee created good things, like the Castle or the community hospital.”
WHAT OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRE?
“My father, Ron Wright. He’s been in Muskogee for 41 years, practicing with the same law firm. He taught me that if you work hard, you are a success.”
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING IN MUSKOGEE?
“Assistant United States attorney, civil division.”
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
“Play music, spend time with my family. We have a house in the Boston Street cul-de-sac where we entertain.”
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?
“Opening this restaurant. This space was an empty shell in April of this year, and we managed to open it in two months.”
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?
“Muskogee is a great community to raise a family. It has a good school system, great people.”