Pamela Rouse Wright has seen many of her customers' prized possessions pass through her hands at Wright Pawn and Jewelry, the Galleria area store she co-owns with her husband. Some of the items have high dollar value while others do not. But one particular item stands out for her.
Wright explained, "This wonderful woman, a friend, came by. Her family collected silver spoons from each generation of her family dating back to the 1700s. A family member had made a cloth holder for the spoons with the name of each person who had passed them down. She could trace her genealogy through those spoons. She was the last of her family, and she wanted me to have her treasures; she knew I loved sterling and history. It was one of the most meaningful gifts I have ever received."
There is history in those spoons, but there is also history in Pamela Wright.
Now the President General of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) - the second President General from Texas - Wright is key to the keeping of the nation's history.
Founded in 1890, DAR is the largest women's lineage service organization of its kind in the world - claiming over one million women as members over the past 132 years.
Early on, the founders of DAR raised money to acquire land to build its headquarters. That land - now prime real estate in the nation's capital - covers an entire city block. Two of its three buildings are National Historic Landmarks including Constitution Hall: nationally recognized as a center for the performing arts.
The DAR headquarters complex is one of the largest of its kind and is owned mortgage free and maintained by women. Among its closest neighbors is the White House.
This is the legacy to which Pamela Rouse Wright was drawn.
Wright was born in Georgia where some women in her family had roots in DAR. But Wright didn't realize what DAR was all about until she was in high school.
With a laugh she said, "DAR offered a Good Citizen Award for high school seniors. I didn't get that award; a friend did. But that's when I began hearing about the organization."
Wright went on to college and several years later met her husband-to-be, Jack Wright.
She said, "Even as a child, I was interested in other people's treasures from the past. So when I met Jack who loved pawn shops, it was a match made in heaven!"
The couple married and when Wright moved to Houston, her grandmother urged her to join DAR as a way of making friends in her new city. Five years later, she was a card-carrying member.
To become a DAR member, an ancestral link to a patriot of the American Revolution is required. Wright's family tree took her back in time to a relative named Reuben Roberts, Sr.
"He was a Scout, just a Private, and he served under George Washington before he was a General. Many members have famous ancestors such as the signers of the Declaration of Independence as their patriots, but I'm proud to come from the farmers and sharecroppers of the south. In DAR, the service of all patriots is considered equally important. We strive to honor all who contributed to our independence, especially women and the underrepresented patriots of color."
Wright began her DAR journey at Houston's Lady Washington Chapter - the first in Houston, fifth in Texas and organized in 1899. With its 668 local members, it is the largest DAR chapter in the world.
Wright said, "Have you ever gone somewhere and immediately thought this is for me? The many service opportunities through the DAR mission of historic preservation, education and patriotism were perfect for my life!"
In the Lady Washington Chapter, Wright was given a crash course in leadership and public speaking from an 82-year-old member who later became her mentor.
"The first time I gave a one-minute presentation on Lady Washington's history, I couldn't catch my breath. After the meeting, a kind member came up to me and said, "Pamela, I'm going to teach you how to speak - and she did!"
Wright built on that lesson becoming a mentor to new members, all the while moving up the ranks in DAR. In 1999, she became the Centennial Regent of the Lady Washington Chapter. In 2012, she advanced and became the State Regent of Texas.
In 2016, she was elected to national office, serving as the Chaplain General. In 2018, she was elected to the office of First Vice President General, and next on July 3, 2022, she was elected and installed as the President General.
Currently, there are DAR chapters in 17 countries including Japan. Any woman 18 years or older who can prove direct bloodline descent from an ancestor who aided in American Independence is eligible for membership.
DAR has patriotism as one of its foundation pillars and reveres those who have served the nation.
"Our members volunteer more than 400,000 hours annually in veteran facilities. DAR is one of the largest groups to serve on the Vetarans Affairs Voluntary Service National Advisory Board and Executive Committee."
Wright said, "We have members who regularly visit the veterans' homes, and we invite veterans to be recognized and honored at a number of ceremonies throughout the year."
Honor flights and historic plaques are also ways veterans and their service are recognized; however an emphasis is on the present too.
Per Wright, "We passionately support our military and through our Project Patriot Committee, we contribute more than $200,000 annually to programs supporting active duty military and their families. DAR has always advocated for a strong national defense."
DAR was founded as a non-partisan and a non-profit organization and remains so today.
Education is another pillar on which DAR was founded. Each year students are awarded scholarships that help with college tuition. In addition, each year thousands of grade school students in schools across the nation participate in the DAR American History Essay Contest. Started on the national level by DAR in the 1950s, this contest encourages students to dive deeper into American history through research and writing.
Historic preservation is another focus of DAR. The organization annually awards $250,000 in grants that save history such as restoring historic buildings, documents and artifacts as well as providing historic markers and monuments.
Wright will serve as President General for three years. Her term will end the year before America celebrates the 250th year since its founding. Wright, an accomplished jewelry designer, designed and created many of the 250th anniversary pins for members to wear on their DAR ribbons - but that's just for starters. Her attention is focused on history and the future.
"I am one of the Presidents General who'll be able to do something outside the maintenance of our buildings. I don't know what that project will be quite yet, but it will be a gift to the nation," Wright said. "Our administration will definitely lay the groundwork for the incredible celebration of our nation to be held during the next administration in 2026."
Wright is committed to expanding membership in DAR and to introducing young women to the history of a nation and how their ancestors played a part in it. Her daughter-in-law, Allie Dunklin, is an active and recognized leader too. In fact, Dunklin was just named the 2022 National Outstanding Junior - the second from Texas - at Continental Congress in July 2022. Their affiliations with DAR will be carried forward by generations to come.
Heading the DAR - an organization that has both saved and made history - is a calling for Pamela Wright: she is honored to keep that calling alive.
Per Wright, "DAR has a long tradition of remembering the formation of our country: if DAR is not the guardian of that, who is?"
Deborah Wrigley is a freelance journalist and a new contributor to Houston Woman Magazine. Previously, she enjoyed a long and illustrious career as a popular, on-air reporter for ABC Channel 13 News in Houston.