Longtime community leader Wayne Strong was honored posthumously with the 2022 Rev. Wright Human Rights Award at the Madison Common Council meeting on Tuesday night. The award was presented to Strong’s wife of almost 36 years, Terri Strong.
Wayne Strong passed away on June 20 at the age of 62. The former Global University criminal justice program chair and longtime Madison police officer and lieutenant was well-known in Madison as the father figure and mentor for generations of young people and families on Madison’s south side where he was the co-director of the Southside Raiders Youth Football and Cheerleading Program. Throughout the decades, Strong had coached and mentored hundreds of youth facing some of the most difficult challenges imaginable.
Strong’s wife, Terri Strong, told Madison365 in a June 27 feature article that her husband was a great family man.
“Even though he was involved in all of this stuff that he was out in the community doing, he was a family man. He cared greatly for his kids, cared greatly for his grandchildren. They were a priority for Wayne,” Strong remembers. “I mean, he would have meetings and would be upset if he missed the grandkids’ karate class. He was a wonderful provider, father, and husband.”
The annual The Rev. James C. Wright Human Rights Award is presented in honor of Rev. Wright, a civil rights pioneer in Madison who worked to bring about the adoption of the City of Madison’s Equal Opportunities Ordinance in the ’60s. He served as a member of the Equal Opportunities Commission prior to his appointment as executive director for the Equal Opportunities Commission. Rev. Wright retired in 1992 after 24 years of service to the City of Madison.
Since 1996, The Rev. James C. Wright Human Rights Award has been presented annually in his honor to an individual who best exemplifies his dedication and compassion for civil and human rights and who conducts their daily life consistent with these values.
Strong was nominated for the award by Jonathan Gramling, Noble Wray, Isadore Knox, and Rev. Gregory Armstrong. “He was a neighborhood officer in the Fisher-Baird neighborhood because that’s where young Black men at that time went. He was doing outreach. And he was talking. And he was getting to know these young men by name,” the nomination document stated. “In his mind, the way to really deal with young people was first through prevention, then intervention, and then restorative justice. Wayne was one of those rare police officers who understood this.”
Wayne Strong had been an important member of S.S. Morris Community African Methodist Episcopal Church on Madison’s east side since the early ‘90s. S.S. Morris Pastor Karla Garcia says that Strong, who served as the pro tem of the Trustee Board and also served as a steward, was her “close and trusted friend” and “the backbone of the church.”
“The shock and sadness of his passing are overwhelming and crippling. Wayne Strong was not only a member of my church, but he was also like a friend and a brother. I often referred to him as my ‘right-hand man,’” Garcia told Madison365. “Wayne was always available to help, assist and provide the support need to operate and run the church. He was extremely loyal, kind, supportive, innovative, creative and dedicated to serving the church and each member of our congregation.”