Edgar "Pepper" Bright Jr., a prominent New Orleans businessman who helped his family purchase Standard Mortgage Corp. and owned the company for over half a century, died Friday. He was 89.
Bright was part of a family group that purchased Standard Mortgage in 1964, and the company began offering loans to residential, industrial and commercial developers. A decade later, it expanded to Atlanta. He became president in 1964 and chairman of the board in 1975.
Eventually, the company amassed a multibillion-dollar portfolio. Its commercial division later was sold to Credit Suisse, and today it focuses on residential loans.
Bright leaves a long legacy of business and public service in New Orleans, having served on the boards of Metairie Park Country Day School, Tulane University's A.B. Freeman School of Business and Dillard University, family members said.
"He loved everything about this city," his son Timothy said. "He loved Dixie Beer, he loved oysters, he loved the Saints, he loved to ride down St. Charles Avenue."
His business career may have been spent in the staid world of mortgages and banking, but there was a bit of rebellious streak in him, at least as a youngster, his wife Marion recalled.
As a teenager, he and several friends went to the French Quarter and all got tattoos. Bright's was a small dagger on the inside of his ankle with his initials etched inside.
"He slept with socks on for a month so his mother wouldn't find out," his wife said. Later, however, during family vacation trips to Destin, Florida, Bright would draw daggers on his and other children.
"We would all be in the dagger club," his son Edgar III said.
Those frequent family trips to Destin were a highlight, he added. His father would pack an eight-mm. camera and make movies with his children as extras.
Bright was an avid tennis player. He won a state title in tennis in 1949 and was a state singles champion. He also played at Yale University, where he attended college. During his later years, he still loved to watch the sport.
He was an Army veteran of the Korean War.
Michael Kearney, the chairman and CEO of the Kearney Companies Inc., remembered Bright as a savvy businessman whose successes never went to his head.
"He was probably one of the most accomplished businessmen in the community, but he would go to great lengths to disguise that," Kearney said. "He never wanted recognition or accolades. He was truly a unique guy."
Kearney said he initially knew "Pepper" as a family friend, but that their bond grew stronger when they started playing tennis together as young adults. By the 1970s, the friends started an event called the Bright Kearney Ellis Race, to advance the health of the business community through jogging.
Through the years, Bright continued to be the life of the party, his friend said.
"He was just a character," Kearney said. "A wonderful guy who loved to laugh and loved to make other people laugh, doing outrageous things."
Survivors include his wife of 64 years, Marion, and four children: Edgar III, Hollis, Timothy and Elinor.
"He loved Standard Mortgage, his children and his nine grandchildren," his wife said.
Funeral arrangements are pending.