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James C. Wright, Jr.

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James Claude Wright, Jr. (born December 22, 1922), usually known as Jim Wright, is a former U.S. Congressman from Texas who served thirty-four years in the U.S. House of Representatives and was the Speaker of the House from 1987 to 1989.

Wright was born in Fort Worth, Texas. He attended Fort Worth and Dallas public schools, then studied at Weatherford College and the University of Texas. In December of 1941 he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps, and after training was commissioned as a pilot in 1942. He earned a Distinguished Flying Cross during combat in the South Pacific during World War II.

After the war he made his home in Weatherford, Texas where he joined partners in forming a Trade Show exhibition and marketing firm. He also joined the Democratic Party. In 1946 he won his first election, to the Texas State House of Representatives, where he served from 1947 to 1949. He was Mayor of Weatherford from 1950-1954, serving as President of the League of Texas Municipalities in 1953.

In 1954, he was elected to Congress from Texas' 12th District, which included Weatherford and was based in Fort Worth. He would be re-elected fourteen times, gradually rising in prominence in the party and in Congress. He was elected House Majority Leader in 1979, serving there until 1987 when he was elected the Speaker of the House. In 1988 he chaired the Party's Convention that nominated Michael Dukakis for President.

In the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex, Jim Wright is known for the contentious Wright Amendment, a law he sponsored that restricted air travel out of Dallas' secondary airport, Love Field.

Ethics investigation and resignation

Wright became the target of an inquiry by the House Ethics Committee. Their report in early 1989 implied that he had used bulk purchases of a vanity book "Reflections of a Public Man" to earn speaking fees in excess of the allowed maximum, and that his wife, Betty, was given a job and perks to avoid the limit on gifts. Faced with an increasing loss of effectiveness, he resigned as Speaker on May 31, 1989, effective upon the selection of a successor. On June 6th, the Democratic caucus brought his speakership to an end by selecting his replacement, and on June 30th he resigned from Congress.

The incident itself was controversial and was a part of the increasing partisan infighting that has plagued the Congress since then. The original charges were filed by Newt Gingrich in 1988, and their effect propelled Mr. Gingrich's own career advancement to Minority Whip. They may have originally been part of a response to Democratic efforts that had forced Edwin Meese's resignation as attorney general or the rejection of Senator Tower 's nomination as Secretary of Defense.

Wright retired from public service, and currently lives in Fort Worth, Texas.

External links

Further reading

  • Barry, John. The Ambition and the Power: The Fall of Jim Wright: A True Story of Washington. New York : Viking Press, 1989. ISBN 0831783028. (Paperback: Penguin, 1992. ISBN 0140104887)
  • Wright, Jim. Balance of Power: Presidents and Congress from the Era of McCarthy to the Age of Gingrich. Turner Publications, 1996. ISBN 1570362785.
  • Wright, Jim. Reflections of a Public Man. Fort Worth, TX : Madison Publishing Company, 1984.


Preceded by:
Tip O'Neill
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
January 6, 1987June 6, 1989
Succeeded by:
Tom Foley

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