He Fought for What Was Wright

Jim Wright was the standard-bearer of the ‘Greatest Generation’. So few remain with us today, but their legacy shapes our today, our every day. –Pete Geren, former representative of the 12th Congressional District, former U.S. Army Secretary, now president and CEO of the Sid W. Richardson Foundation

Friends, family and dignitaries gathered on Monday, May 11, at First United Methodist Church in Fort Worth. They came to honor a legend. Jim Wright, the 56th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, died in Fort Worth on May 6. He was 92. Wright was buried at City Greenwood Cemetery in his beloved Weatherford. He is survived by his wife, Betty, along with a son and three daughters.

Wright was one of 53 people in American history to hold the office of U.S. House Speaker and the third Texan ever to hold that high position.

James Claude Wright Jr. was born in Fort Worth on Dec. 22, 1922. He represented his hometown in Congress from 1955 through 1989. After serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps, where he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Legion of Merit, Wright was elected to the Texas Legislature at age 23. At 26, he became the youngest mayor in Texas, in Weatherford, his boyhood home. Wright was elected to Congress at 31, where he served 18 consecutive terms.

Under Wright’s leadership over the historic 100th Congress, he helped fashion the gain of an active war on drugs and assisted in the legislation of the first major trade bill in 50 years.

Landmark legislation was passed during that session on shelter for the homeless, safer highways and bridges, affordable housing, clean water and catastrophic medical assistance for the elderly. Wright received worldwide recognition for his efforts to bring peace to Central America.

He believed in good works with no expectation of recognition. On May 13, 2014, the Exchange Club named Wright Fort Worth’s outstanding citizen for 2013.

Congresswoman Kay Granger served as one of the three keynote speakers at the Golden Deeds Awards banquet that evening. Granger said: “It’s truly remarkable to think of all of these changes to our city and developments to Fort Worth happened during Jim Wright’s time in office. And, for every one of the defense contracts secured, federal buildings constructed, airports and roads built, it took community support and strong leadership by people like Jim Wright to make it all possible. If there was anyone ever worthy enough of our sincere gratitude and appreciation for a lifetime of service to Fort Worth, it’s certainly Speaker Jim Wright.”

Wright said to the gathering that he needed to be thanking them, not the other way around.

Wright resigned the speakership in 1989. He returned to Fort Worth where he taught at Texas Christian University for nearly two decades. 

Wright had three wishes for the nation, he said in an interview with this magazine in 2014. He wished for greater educational attainment, political kindness and respect, and better efforts to preserve and protect our planet.