Jim Wright

The longtime U.S. Speaker of the House from Fort Worth who personified the Democratic party for decades, Jim Wright has traded the public spotlight for the private life—sort of. He’s mostly stayed out of politics since he resigned in 1989 following allegations that he had used his influence to sell a book he had written. (His chief accuser, Newt Gingrich, came under fire as Speaker for his own book deal and was also reprimanded by Congress for improperly using tax-deductible donations.) But for the past ten years, Wright has taught a popular fall class at Texas Christian University titled “Congress and the Presidents.” The 78-year-old also writes op-ed pieces for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and he has been penning his recollections of his service during World War II for a book that historian Stephen Ambrose is working on. Though doctors have operated on Wright twice for oral cancer—his cancerous right jawbone was removed and replaced with a bone from his leg—he has kept his sense of humor. After his second surgery, in March 1999, Wright recalls that a former aide, playwright Larry L. King, said to him, “My Lord, Mr. Speaker, we tried for forty years to keep your foot out of your mouth, and now they’ve gone and put your leg in it.” “Considering all the mileage on my odometer,” Wright says, “I’m doing okay.”

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