Years ago during one of the legislative interims, I was cutting through the Texas House chamber when I saw a man standing behind one of the chairs in about the middle of the south side of the seats. He was rubbing the back of the chair and looking toward the speaker’s podium. As I got closer, I could see the man was former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright, but it seemed so out of place that all I could think to do was say his name with a question mark at the end.
Wright turned, smiled and said something like, “This was my seat. I just wanted to stop by here because I have so many fond memories of this place.”
It was Wright’s election from Weatherford to that seat in 1946 that set him on the path of becoming one of the most powerful politicians in the United States, serving as the U.S. House speaker from 1987 until 1989.
Wright died has died at the age of 92. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has an obituary by Dave Montgomery, who covered Wright in his rise through the U.S. House leadership. Montgomery’s reporting also played a major role in the ethics scandal that led Wright to become the first speaker to resign from office in U.S. history.
On a personal note, during that era, I was a reporter for the Star-Telegram in Austin. Every now and then, I would get a letter from Wright in which he had pasted one of my stories to a piece of paper and marked it up with a red pen to demonstrate the inadequacy of my reporting. I was especially sure to receive such a letter if I wrote anything remotely positive about Republican Phil Gramm.