James Claude Wright, Jr.
(born December 22, 1922), usually known as Jim
Wright, is a former Democratic U.S.
Congressman from Texas who served
34 years in the U.S. House of
and was the Speaker of
from 1987 to 1989.
born in Fort Worth,
Texas. He attended Fort Worth and Dallas public schools, eventually graduating from Oak Cliff High
School, then studied at Weatherford College and the University of
Texas at Austin.
In December 1941 he enlisted in the
United States Army Air
, and after training was commissioned as a U.S. Army Air
Forces 2nd Lt. as a bombardier
in 1942. He earned a
flying combat with the 380th Bomb Group
in the South Pacific during World War
. His retelling of his wartime exploits is contained in his
2005 book The Flying Circus: Pacific War — 1943 — As Seen
through A Bombsight
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 to 1954, serving as President of the
League of Texas Municipalities
Career in Congress
In 1954, he was elected to Congress from Texas's 12th congressional
, 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. In 1956 he refused to sign
the Southern Manifesto
He was elected House Majority
by one vote in December 1976, 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. During
that convention, he introduced John
F. Kennedy, Jr
, for Kennedy's first televised speech.
Metroplex, Jim Wright is known for the Wright Amendment, a contentious law he
sponsored that restricted air travel out of Dallas's secondary
Ethics investigation and resignation
Wright became the target of an inquiry by the House
. Their report in early 1989 implied that he
had used bulk purchases of his book, Reflections of a Public
, 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 6, the Democratic caucus brought his
Speakership to an end by selecting his replacement, Tom Foley
, and on June 30 he resigned from his
seat in Congress.
The incident itself was controversial and was a part of the
increasing partisan infighting that has plagued the Congress ever
since. The original charges were filed by Newt Gingrich
in 1988 and their effect
propelled Gingrich's own career advancement to the Speaker's chair
itself. Seven years later, Gingrich would himself face 84 charges
of ethics violations, 83 of which were dropped.
the national security state
attributed Wright's forced resignation to the critical questions he
was raising in the late 1980s with regard to CIA covert actions in
resignation from the House, Wright retired from public service to
Texas. He serves as a professor at Texas
Christian University, teaching a course titled "Congress and the
- Barry, John. The Ambition and the Power: The Fall of Jim
Wright: A True Story of Washington. New York : Viking Press,
1989. ISBN 0-8317-8302-8. (Paperback: Penguin, 1992.
- Wright, Jim. Balance of Power: Presidents and Congress from
the Era of McCarthy to the Age of Gingrich. Turner
Publications, 1996. ISBN 1-57036-278-5.
- Wright, Jim. Reflections of a Public Man. Fort Worth,
TX : Madison Publishing Company, 1984.
- Wright, Jim. The Flying Circus: Pacific War — 1943 — As
Seen Through A Bombsight. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2005.
- Wright, Jim. The Coming Water Famine. New York: