Mission & History

The Foundation’s purpose is to support Children and Youth, Public Health and Human Services, Education and Community Development and Arts and Culture.

On December 31, 1954, Miss Johnie Elizabeth Wright established the Lola Wright Foundation in memory of her mother Lola Hemphill Wright. Johnie Wright was born in Georgetown, Texas on January 5, 1883 to the Reverend John D. Wright, a Methodist minister, and Lola Hemphill Wright. Rev. Wright died only a few months after Miss Wright’s birth and she was raised by her mother and maternal aunt, Miss Martha Hemphill. The two women made sure that Miss Wright was properly raised and well educated. Upon completing Miss Finch’s Finishing School in New York City, she enrolled in Southwestern University in Georgetown where she studied the violin and obtained a degree in music.

Regrettably, very little else is known about this gracious and generous woman and her family. It is known however that Mrs. Wright and Miss Hemphill owned and operated the Commercial Hotel in Georgetown. The hotel had a reputation for being charming and genteel with an elegant dining room known for its good southern cooking. It is believed that the hotel was established sometime around 1890 and was destroyed by fire in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s. Sometime after the hotel burned, Miss Wright and her mother moved to an apartment in the Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas. In 1943, Lola Wright died. The Rev. John D. Wright, Lola Hemphill Wright and Johnie Elizabeth Wright are all buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Austin, Texas.

Not much is known about Miss Wright after she moved to Austin although records show that she had income from farm rental on a section of land in Yoakum County, Texas. Over the years, Miss Wright received advice and assistance from the Brown family (Brown and Root Company) who were longtime family friends. Upon receiving notice in 1947 that she was in jeopardy of losing her land in Yoakum County, Miss Wright was referred to Mr. Coleman Gay, a prominent Austin attorney who aided her in resolving the tax matter concerning her land. In 1948, oil was discovered on the property.

A few years after oil and gas were discovered, the idea of a charitable foundation was put forward and the Lola Wright Foundation came into being. The first president of the Foundation was Miss Wright and other directors were Coleman Gay and Neely H. Landrum of Dallas, Texas. When Miss Wright died in 1963, Raymond R. Todd succeeded her as president. In 1973, Mr. Todd died and was succeeded by Patrick H. O’Donnell, Jr. Currently, the Foundation is governed by a board of seven directors.

The Lola Wright Foundation is a private, non-profit charitable foundation which supports community-based organizations granted tax exemption under the Internal Revenue Code, Section 501(c)(3). The Foundation’s grant making activities are limited to organizations operating primarily within a 50-mile radius of Austin, Texas. Funding emphases include, but are not limited to, social, health and human services; early childhood, youth and adult development services; arts and culture; and services for minorities, the homeless, and the elderly.