HICKORY, N.C. - The longtime mayor of Hickory, Rudy Wright Jr., was found dead inside his home Thursday afternoon, police said.
There was a large police presence at Wright’s home on Ninth Avenue NW, and Channel 9 reporter Dave Faherty spoke to neighbors who were in disbelief.
Police received a call about a possible shooting at Wright's house, but investigators do not suspect foul play.
Both the police chief and deputy chief were at the home along with investigators Thursday.
Wright has been the mayor since 2001 and is well-known in western North Carolina.
Friends said he was always willing to talk about any issue facing the city and, at one point, even let everyone know his cell phone number if they wanted to talk.
Breaking Hickory- longtime Mayor Rudy Wright is dead. Both chief and deputy chief are at the home with family. pic.twitter.com/l6S3bfIX4x— Dave Faherty (@FahertyWSOC9) May 11, 2017
Faherty has interviewed the mayor nearly two dozen times at his print shop in Hickory and said he was always willing to answer any question.
“It is with deepest sorrow, that I must inform you of the untimely passing of Mayor Rudy Wright today at his home,” city manager Warren Wood said. “My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. While the Hickory Police Department is conducting an investigation, at this time there are no indications of suspicious circumstances. I ask that you respect the family’s privacy and allow them time to grieve.”
Wright's family released the following statement to Channel 9 Friday:
"Rudy Wright passed away on May 11th. Rudy was a loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend to many; in these initial hours and days of celebrating his life, we, his family, deeply appreciate all of the kind words and stories from so many that he touched. We would like to thank the first responders to the scene, the community of Hickory, and everyone who has extended their love and support to our family, especially Rudy's wife of 49 years, Donna. He was a man of intelligence and passion, as evidenced by his years as a successful businessman, entrepreneur, and public servant. Rudy loved every minute of his 16 years as mayor of Hickory, NC. He loved being a part of community events, meetings, ribbon cuttings, and anything else that helped to make the community of Hickory a better place to live.
We are deeply saddened at his loss, and will miss his stories, his laugh, his stubbornness, and unique character that can never be replaced. Mental illness and depression affect so many regardless of one's position in the community, or the size of one's smile. If you, or someone you know may be considering suicide, please seek professional help. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention or the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Hickory. More details about a public memorial to follow."
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