The Queen Pin
ABOVE PHOTO: Thelma Wright
When her husband was murdered, Thelma Wright had to take over the family business. She went on to become one of the city’s most notorious drug traffickers. The Biography Channel series tells her story.
By Denise Clay
In her current life, Thelma Wright is a property manager for a non-profit organization that helps women recovering from the problems associated with drug and alcohol abuse.
It’s a job that puts her past life into perspective. At one time, Wright was one of the country’s most notorious drug traffickers, selling heroin and cocaine, …and a rarity in that life, a female boss.
“I got into the drug game for the same reason that everyone gets into the drug game,” Wright said. “You think that you can do it better, that you can do it differently. But there are only two ways that life is going to end: You’re going to go to jail, or you’re going to get killed.”
Wright’s life as a drug queen pin is the focus of a Biography Channel documentary. Her story, “Philly’s Gangster Queen”, is part of the channel’s “Gangsters: America’s Most Evil” series. She is also the author of a book about her life entitled “With Eyes From Both Sides: My Life Inside and Outside of the Game.”
With writing the book and the documentary, Wright had to relive a life that included a lot of things that were kind of painful, she admits. She chose her words, and the stories, carefully.
“There were so many layers of my life and stories that needed to be told,” she said. “When writing the book initially, I tried to be careful about how I told these stories. I wanted to tell my story, not someone else’s.”
In the early 1970s, Wright was a Catholic schoolgirl from South Philadelphia who came from a two-parent home and participated in sports, she said. But when she met her husband Jackie Wright, a drug trafficker who was a member of the Black Mafia, her life changed.
“We all like the “bad boy”, she said. “We feel safe with the “bad boy” because we know that if anything happens, he can take care of it. But there are consequences to being with the bad boy.”
And there were some consequences, Wright admits. Her husband shot her. She was occasionally hit. Because she was in what she called “crazy love”, she dealt with what she needed to because leaving wasn’t an option, she said.
Eventually, her husband’s drug business became too dangerous and Jackie Wright sent his wife and son to Los Angeles. In 1986, he was murdered, and because she needed money to care for her son, she took over the family business, she said.
Unlike the current drug business, the risk vs. reward ratio was pretty good, Wright said.
“You could make a lot of money in the drug trade,” she said. “You could sell a key of coke for $25,000 and I sold 15 keys a day. Now, a key of coke is $30,000-$40,000 a day and you can’t make as much. The amount of jail time has also gone up. Most dealers can’t even get out of jail when they get locked up because they can’t afford a lawyer.”
A near-death experience led to Wright’s decision to get out of the game, she said.
And she’s told her story to people in jails, schools and any other place where she can get her message of why it’s important to get an education, especially in a climate where jails outnumber schools…and get more funding.
“Young people need to take their education seriously,” she said. “They need to think about the future. The more education you have, the better choices you can make.”
“With Eyes on Both Sides” is available on Wright’s website, http://www.thelmabwright.com and via Amazon.com. “Philly’s Gangster Queen” can be seen on the Biography Channel on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. Check your local listings.
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