Shoe shine man Eddie Wright, a familiar figure in the Capitol who has polished the shoes at the South Entrance for 22 years, has been laid off because of budget cuts.
A shoe shine stand has existed in the Capitol for a century. In 1992, when Wright took it over, the job was private. A decade later, former Senate Leader John Burton made Wright a Senate staffer and put him on the official payroll, according to the Capitol Morning Report, which first reported Wright’s situation.
Last week, the Senate, citing budget problems, announced more than three dozen layoffs of Senate personnel – including Wright. The Senate has about 900 people on its payroll. The Assembly, which did not have layoffs, about 1,200.
At least one of Wright’s visits to the Capitol was dramatic: In 1967, Wright and his friends – including Black Panther Party members Bobby Seale and Eldridge Cleaver – went to the Capitol as part of a planned protest. As Wright toured Capitol Park, Seale and Cleaver toted loaded shotguns onto the Assembly floor to protest a new firearms law.
When Wright started shining shoes in the Capitol, he had cards printed up that described him “Eddie Wright, Shoe Beautician.”
Among his famous customers – and friends — were Arnold Schwarzenegger, Muhammad Ali, actress Jane Seymour, director Mario Van Peebles, and many of Sacramento’s lobbyists.
“He was invited to my daughter’s wedding,” lobbyist Gary Cooper told the Capitol Morning Report. “A lot of people love him.”