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JIM WRIGHT LOOKS AT A REPLICA AT THE FEDERAL BUILDING IN DOWNTOWN FORT WORTH (photo by jeff prince)

Former House speaker and Fort Worth native James Claude Wright Jr. — better known simply as Jim Wright — is dead at 92.

Wright packed a bunch into those years. He attended Weatherford College and the University of Texas at Austin before joining the military during World War II and earning medals as a bombardier in the South Pacific.

He was a Weatherford businessman before winning election to the Texas Legislature as a Democrat.

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In 1954, voters of the 12th District that included Fort Worth elected Wright to Congress where he stayed for 34 years.

Wright moved plenty of pork from Washington to Tarrant County, along with loads of military contracts, the Fritz G. Lanham Federal Building, money for the Stockyards, and many other benefits for his constituents back home.

FORMER FORT WORTH MAYOR BOB BOLEN AND WRIGHT REMAINED FRIENDS TO THE END (photo by jeff prince)

THE EYEBROWS THAT ROARED (photo by jeff prince)

He was namesake to the Wright Amendment, a law designed to increase air traffic at DFW International Airport after it opened in 1973.

Wright resigned as Speaker of the House amid partisan controversy in 1989 and came back to Fort Worth and enjoyed life as a scholar, teacher, author, speaker, newspaper columnist, and general beloved character.

Late in life he lamented that he spent so much of his time writing eulogies for the funerals of old friends.

Wright’s speech was forever garbled after a surgery for tongue cancer in 1996. But he worked hard to be able to speak clearly enough to be understood. Speaking was one of his favorite things.

We spent quite a few hours together in 2007 while I was writing a story about him (“The Speaker in Winter,” July 4, 2007). I found him to be fun loving and full of stories. His eyes still sparkled when he talked.

We visited the federal building downtown that he helped bring to Fort Worth, we looked at local art (he loved Texas artists), and we ate lunch at Los Alamos Cafe, the Mexican restaurant (now called Los Paisanos) on North Main St. He was recognized and approached by people wherever we went, and he enjoyed interacting with strangers and posing for photos with them.

He suffered from an ailment that made him dizzy, his jaw and mouth were slightly disfigured from surgeries, and he was frailer than that straight-backed Golden Gloves fighter and World War II bombardier that took Washington DC by storm. Yet his face was still recognizable. Remnants of red could still be seen atop his head. His trademark bushy eyebrows still flared like the graying mane of an old lion. And his mind was still sharp.

“I don’t want to be idle,” he said. “I want to get up every morning and look forward to having something to do.”

ALFRED GALLEGOS, OWNER OF LOS ALAMOS, AND HIS CUSTOMERS WERE THRILLED WHEN WRIGHT VISITED THE CAFE IN 2007 FOR A PLATE OF ENCHILADAS. (photo by jeff prince)

2 COMMENTS

  1. A sad but stone-true fact is obvious to folks who were close to Jim Wright, and that fact is that if you collected and stuffed every single Tea-Bagging Peckerwood in Texas into a gigantic slop bucket, well…all of them combined would not amount to a red hair on the gentleman’s butt. May God bless you and keep you Sir.

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