Wright earned a bachelor of arts from the University of Louisville in 1936 and taught school in Kentucky while working toward his master's degree, which he obtained in 1939. In 1941 he began working for DuPont and then as a Naval Intelligence officer in the South Pacific. He served as director of the Alabama section of the Civilian Production Administration and directed the Alabama Savings Bond division of the U.S. Treasury Department.
In 1950, Wright began working in the office of Senator Lister Hill. In 1954 he left to become executive secretary of the Baptist Foundation of Alabama, and then in 1958 was named president of Howard College. He enhanced the school's ties to the Alabama Baptist State Convention and led efforts to acquire the Cumberland School of Law and the Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing. During his tenure, enrollment doubled and the school's Shades Valley campus took shape. As the school transitioned to University status, it was renamed for Frank Samford, Sr. When Wright retired in 1983, he was given the honor of being named Chancellor for Life.
Wright was the first chair of the Alabama Ethics Commission. He was also president of the Alabama Historical Association and the Alabama Writers Conclave, and a member of the Alabama Educational Television Commission, the National Education Association, the Association of American Colleges, the American Council on Education and the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. He also served on the inaugural Homewood Board of Education. Through his involvement with Rotary International, Wright chaired the $240 million PolioPlus campaign which distributed more than a billion oral vaccines to children worldwide.
Wright was married to the former Lolla Catherine Wurtele and had two sons, Leslie Jr and John. He was inducted into the Alabama Men's Hall of Fame and the Alabama Academy of Honor, and was named Birmingham Citizen of the Year. The Leslie S. Wright Fine Arts Center at Samford in named in his honor.
|President of Samford University
- Wright, Leslie S. (1939) The Origin and History of the Louisville and Portland Canal
- Wright, Leslie S. (1960) Henry Ford and Muscle Shoals
- Wright, Leslie S. (1969) Samford University: From Farm Belt to Space Age
- "The Presidential Tradition: Leslie S. Wright, 1958-1983 (June 9, 2006) The Belltower
- "Leslie Stephen Wright (August 8, 2014) Wikipedia - accessed December 23, 2014
- Leslie S. Wright at the Alabama Academy of Honor