Australia’s first TV celebrity doctor, Dr James Wright, passed away over the weekend.
It’s believed the healthcare professional and media personality, affectionately dubbed the ‘Merry Medic Dr James Wright’ by Aussies, died peacefully in his sleep.
“Mum lived to 100, so I plan to live to 110,” he said in a previous interview with 9News. “That’s the plan. I might revise it later on.”
Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be, with the beloved doctor dying two weeks shy of his 95th birthday.
Dr Wright is survived by his four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. While his family have yet to release a statement at the time of press, tributes have started rolling in from fans and colleagues on social media.
Radio host Ben Fordham was among the first to pay tribute.
“His real name is Dr John F. Knight AM,” Fordham said this morning on 2GB. “He was so good. I used to love how he would say to people, ‘What’s your problem?’ no medical mumbo jumbo.”
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“He was eccentric, he was intelligent, he was a joy to be around, I was lucky enough to work with him back in the day at radio 2UE. But away from the microphone and the TV studio, he did incredible things to help people.”
Entertainment journalist Peter Ford expressed his condolences on Twitter, writing: “Vale John Wright,” while SydneyCityTV tweeted, “Sad news: Dr John F/James Wright (famous for quite a lot of work in the Australian media over the years) died yesterday at the age of 94.”
“Thoughts and condolences go out to his family, friends and many former media colleagues from over the years,” tweeted one fan, with another writing: “You cannot describe Dr James Wright’s career and life in just 280 characters… or even in a maxed out thread. The impact he has made on the Australian psyche is incalculable. The “Merry Medic” will indeed be missed.”
Yet another paid tribute with these heartfelt words: “Dr John Knight – the Merry Medic, Dr James Wright – probably the most enthusiastic physician ever. The surgery is now closed.”
Dr Wright was well-loved for taking his viewers on a journey through his youth in the Depression era to his early years as a doctor, before embarking on a media career despite once claiming he “has the worst voice in the world”.
In 1972, he appeared on Channel Nine’s The Mike Walsh Show, then on Midday with Ray Martin and Midday with Kerri-Anne. He then pivoted to radio where he made a name for himself on 2GB and the 2UE, where he presented two-hour weekly programs.
“He cared about old people, he cared about people who were perhaps forgotten by other doctors or the rest of society. He put his money where his mouth was,” Ray Martin told 9News.
On top of his TV cameos and radio hosting gigs, Wright also wrote countless columns for publications such as The Sunday Telegraph, The Australian Women’s Weekly, Woman’s Day and teen title Dolly, coughing up medical advice.
Adding to his impressive repertoire, Wright also wrote 30 books in his lifetime, his last book was his autobiography Dr James Wright: Adventures of a Merry Medic, which was released in 2016 when he was 89.
However, Dr Wright’s life was without his own health battles with the doctor fighting throat cancer in 2012. He was soon given the all-clear but elation turned to heartbreak when that same night, his wife, Noreen, died in her sleep.
Five years later, Wright was again fighting for his life after being diagnosed with bowel cancer. But thanks to his fighting spirit, Dr Wright remained positive throughout.
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