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John Bowden Connally, Jr. (February 27, 1917 June 15, 1993) was an influential American politician, serving as Governor of Texasmarker, Secretary of the Navy under President John F. Kennedy, and as Secretary of the Treasury under President Richard M. Nixon. While he was Governor in 1963, Connally was a passenger in the car in which President Kennedy was assassinatedmarker.

Early years, education, military

Connally was born into a large family in Floresvillemarker, the seat of Wilson Countymarker southeast of San Antoniomarker. He was among the few Floresville High School graduates who attended college. He graduated from the University of Texasmarker, where he was the student body president and a member of the Friar Society. He subsequently graduated from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the bar by examination.

Connally served in the United States Navy during World War II, first as an aide to James V. Forrestal, then as part of the planning staff for the invasion of Africa by General Dwight D. Eisenhower. He transferred to the South Pacific Theater, where he served with distinction. He was a fighter-plane director aboard the aircraft carrier USS Essex and won a Bronze Star for bravery. He was shifted to another carrier, the USS Bennington and won a Legion of Merit. He was also involved in the campaigns in the Gilbert, Marshallmarker, Ryukyumarker, and Philippinemarker islands. He was discharged in 1946 at the rank of lieutenant commander.

On his release from the Navy, Connally practiced law but soon returned to Washington, D.C.marker to serve as a key aide to Lyndon Baines Johnson, when LBJ was a Congressman. He maintained close ties with Johnson until the former president's death in 1973.

Lawyer for Sid Richardson

Two of Connally's principal legal clients were the Texas oil tycoon Sid W. Richardson and Perry Bass, Richardson's nephew and partner, both of Fort Worthmarker. Richardson's empire at the time was estimated at $200 million to $1 billion. Under Richardson's tutelage, Connally gained experience in a variety of enterprises and received tips on real estate purchases. The work required the Connallys to relocate to Fort Worth. When Richardson died in 1959, Connally was named to the lucrative position as co-executor of the estate.

Connally was also involved in a reported clandestine deal to place the Texas Democrat Robert Anderson on the 1956 Republican ticket as vice president. Though the idea fell through when Eisenhower retained Richard Nixon in the second slot, Anderson received a million dollars for his efforts and a subsequent appointment as treasury secretary, the same position that Connally would fill for Nixon fourteen years later in 1971. Moreover, in another irony, Anderson had been Eisenhower's first Navy secretary, the post that Connally filled for Kennedy in 1961.

From Navy Secretary to Governor

At the 1960 Democratic convention in Los Angeles, Connally led supporters of Senator Lyndon Johnson. He claimed that John F. Kennedy, if nominated and elected, would be unable to serve as president for a full term because of Addison's disease and dependence on cortisone. Kennedy, however, had wrapped up the needed delegates for nomination before the convention even opened. Kennedy realized that he could not be elected without support of traditional Southern Democratic votes, many of whom had backed Johnson. Therefore, Johnson was offered the vice-presidential nomination.

Secretary of the Navy

At Johnson's request, in 1961 President Kennedy named Connally Secretary of the Navy. Connally resigned eleven months later to run for the Texas governorship. He had managed one of the largest employers in the world, as the Navy had more than 600,000 in uniform and 650,000 civilian workers, stationed at 222 bases in the United States and 53 abroad. It had a budget of $14 billion.

Connally directed the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Seamarker on a new kind of "gunboat diplomacy". The USS Forrestalmarker landed in Naples, Italymarker, and brought gifts to children in an orphanage. Connally ordered gifts also to a hospital in Cannes, Francemarker, which treated children with bone diseases; to poor Greek children on the island of Rhodesmarker; and for spastic children in Palermo, Italymarker. Presents were also sent to Turkish children in Cyprusmarker and to a camp in Beirutmarker for homeless Palestinian refugees.

Connally fought hard to protect the Navy's role in the national space program, having vigorously opposed assigning most space research to the United States Air Force. Time magazine termed Connally's year as Navy secretary "a first-rate appointment". Critics noted, however, that the brevity of Connally's tenure precluded any sustained or comprehensive achievements.

Running for governor

Connally announced two weeks before Christmas of 1961 that he was leaving his position to return to Texas to seek the 1962 Democratic gubernatorial nomination. He would have to compete against the incumbent Marion Price Daniel, Sr., who was running for a fourth consecutive two-year term. Daniel was in political trouble following the enactment of a two-cent state sales tax in 1961, which had soured many voters on his administration. Danield had let the tax become law without his signature but could have vetoed the measure. Former state Attorney General Will Wilson, who had run for the U.S. Senate vacated by Lyndon Johnson in 1961, also entered the gubernatorial campaign and was particularly critical of Johnson, whom he claimed engineered Connally's candidacy.

Connally ran as a conservative Democrat. He was placed in a primary runoff election against the liberal candidate, Don Yarborough of Houstonmarker, no relation to Connally nemesis U.S. Senator Ralph W. Yarborough. In November, he turned back a determined bid by the conservative Republican Jack Cox, also of Houston. Cox had run two years earlier in the Democratic primary against Daniel. Connally received 847,036 ballots (54 percent) to Cox's 715,025 (45.6 percent). In the campaign, Connally made an issue of Cox's switching to the Republican Party (GOP) the previous year. Eleven years later, Connally made the same switch. Cox, as it turned out, was the strongest Republican gubernatorial candidate in Texas since 1924. Not until 1972, when Henry Grover carried the GOP banner, did the Republicans make a better showing for governor.

Connally was a master campaign professional. He believed in the entourage and advance men, the practice of having staff aides check out events in advance, and having press interviews on the run to demonstrate his heavy schedule of commitments. Biographer Charles Ashman claims that Connally would have aides telephone airports which he would shortly visit and ask to page him for an urgent message. Such manipulation, he believed, impressed airport patrons, many of whom would also be Texas voters.

Governor of Texas

Connally served as governor from 1963-1969. On November 22, 1963, Connally was seriously wounded while riding in President Kennedy's car in Dealey Plazamarker of Dallasmarker when the president was assassinatedmarker. He recovered from wounds in his chest, wrist and thigh. The ten-month investigation of the Warren Commission of 1963–1964, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) of 1977–1978, and other government investigations concluded that the President was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald.

In the campaigns of 1964 and 1966, Connally defeated weak Republican challenges offered by Jack Crichton and T.E. Kennerly. He prevailed with margins of 73.8 percent and 72.8 percent, respectively, giving him greater influence with the nearly all-Democratic legislature.

In 1965, Connally appointed House Speaker Byron M. Tunnell to the Texas Railroad Commission, on the retirement of 32-year veteran Ernest O. Thompson, a former mayor of Amarillomarker. This appointment enabled Ben Barnes of De Leonmarker in Comanche Countymarker to succeed Tunnell and become the youngest Speaker in Texas history.

After Charles Joseph Whitman, on August 1, 1966, went onto the University of Texasmarker Tower in Austin and commanded the grounds for over an hour and a half, Connally put together a Commission of experts who determined that Whitman had been suffering from a glioblastoma brain tumor, amphetamine abuse and had family troubles. All of the preceding issues contributed to the killing of sixteen on the campus and the wounding of many others, as well as the killing of his wife and mother in the early morning hours of August 1. Whitman himself was killed by ex-APD Officer Houston McCoy.

As governor, Connally promoted HemisFair '68, the world's fair held in San Antonio, he believed would net the state an additional $12 million in direct taxes. A permanent Institute of Texan Cultures museum was an outgrowth of the fair. It was designed to be "a dramatic showcase, not only to Texans, but to all the world, of the host of diverse peoples from many lands whose blood and dreams built our state."

During the Vietnam War, Connally hawkishly urged Johnson to "finish" the engagement by any military means necessary. Johnson, however, was more moderate in his conduct of the war than Connally advised.

There was some talk of Connally being picked as Hubert Humphrey's running mate in 1968, but the liberal Senator Edmund Muskie of Mainemarker was chosen instead. Connally endorsed Humphrey and greeted the nominee at the Fort Worth airport and even reconciled for a month with intraparty rival Ralph Yarborough. Ashman claims that Connally was also "privately helping Nixon, recruiting a number of influential Texans, members of both parties, to work for the Republican candidate." Ben Barnes recounts a story that Connally in 1968 shouted at Humphrey in a private meeting at the Democratic National Convention in Chicagomarker and accused the vice president of being disloyal to President Johnson by trying to soft-pedal Johnson's strong position regarding Vietnam. Barnes said that the "tongue-lashing" Connally gave Humphrey was "an epic. . . He orally spanked that man as hard as I've ever seen anyone chastised. He either strengthened Hubert's backbone, or gave him some, or scared him half to death."

Connally was succeeded as governor by Lieutenant Governor Preston Smith, a theater owner from Lubbockmarker, who twice defeated the Republican attorney Paul Eggers in 1968 and 1970. Eggers, a friend and later associate of Republican Senator John G. Tower, served as general counsel in the Treasury Department from 1969-1970, before Connally joined the Nixon Cabinet.

Secretary of the Treasury

In 1971, Republican President Nixon appointed the then Democrat Connally as Treasury Secretary. Before agreeing to take the appointment, however, Connally told Nixon that the president must find a position in the administration for George H.W. Bush, the Republican who had been defeated in November 1970 in a hard-fought U.S. Senate race against Democrat Lloyd M. Bentsen. Connally told Nixon that his taking the treasury post would embarrass Bush, who had "labored in the vineyards" for Nixon's election as president, while Connally had supported Humphrey. Ben Barnes, then the lieutenant governor and originally a Connally ally, claims in his autobiography that Connally's insistence saved Bush's political career because the then former U.S. representative and twice-defeated Senate candidate relied on appointed offices to build a resume by which to seek the presidency in 1980 and again in 1988. Nixon hence named Bush as ambassador to the United Nations in order to secure Connally's services at treasury. Barnes also said that he doubted George W. Bush could have become president in 2001 had Bush's father not first been given the string of federal appointments during the 1970s to strengthen the family's political viability.

On taking the treasury post, Connally famously told a delegation of Europeans worried about exchange rate fluctuations that the American dollar "is our currency, but your problem."

Connally's official Treasury Department portrait
Secretary Connally defended a $50 billon increase in the debt ceiling and a $35 to $40 billion budget deficit as an essential "fiscal stimulus" at a time when five million Americans were unemployed. He unveiled Nixon's program of raising the price of gold and formally devaluing the dollar—-finally leaving the old gold standard entirely, a process begun in 1934 by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Prices continued to increase during 1971, and Nixon allowed wage and price guidelines, which Congress had authorized on a stand-by basis, to be implemented. Connally later shied away from his role in recommending the failed wage and price controls. Connally announced guaranteed loans for the ailing Lockheed aircraft company. He fought a lonely battle too against growing balance-of-payment problems with the nation's trading partners. He also undertook important foreign diplomatic trips for Nixon through his role as Treasury Secretary.

Historian Bruce Schulman wrote that Nixon was "awed" by the handsome, urbane Texan who was also a tough political fighter. Schulman added that Henry Kissinger, Nixon's National Security Advisor, noted that Connally was the only cabinet member that Nixon did not disparage behind his back, and that this was high praise indeed.

Democrats for Nixon

Connally stepped down as treasury secretary in 1972 to head "Democrats for Nixon", a group funded by Republicans. Connally's old mentor, Lyndon Johnson, stood behind Democratic presidential nominee George S. McGovern of South Dakotamarker, although McGovern had long opposed Johnson's foreign and defense policies. It was the first time that Connally and Johnson were on opposite sides of a general election campaign. Connally's brother, Godfrey Connally, an economics professor at a junior college in San Antonio, also endorsed McGovern. Some evidence even suggests that Connally was "privately" for Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956, instead of the Democratic candidate Adlai E. Stevenson of Illinoismarker, for whom Johnson campaigned with considerable loyalty. During the war, Connally had served on Eisenhower's planning staff for the invasion of North Africa.

In the 1972 U.S. Senate election in Texas, Connally endorsed the Democratic Harold Barefoot Sanders, later a federal judge from Dallas, rather than the Republican incumbent John G. Tower, also of Dallas. Connally had considered running against Tower in 1966, but chose to run for a third term as governor. Tower then defeated a Connally ally, state Attorney General Waggoner Carr of Lubbockmarker.

Tower, Nixon's choice in the Senate race, won handily over Sanders, but the Republican candidate for governor, Henry Grover of Houston, a victim of intraparty maneuvering, fell short and lost to Democrat Dolph Briscoe of Uvaldemarker, a city in South Texas.

Connally's signature, as used on American currency
In January 1973, Lyndon Johnson died of heart disease. He and Connally had been friends since 1938. Connally took part in eulogizing Johnson during interment services at the LBJ Ranchmarker in Gillespie Countymarker, along with the Rev. Billy Graham, who officiated at the service.

Switching parties

In May 1973, Connally joined the Republican Party. When Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned five months later because of scandal, Connally was one of Nixon's potential choices to fill the vacancy. Nixon tapped Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr., the House Minority Leader from Grand Rapidsmarker, Michiganmarker, because he believed that the moderate Ford could be easily confirmed by both houses of Congress, as required by the 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution. A Connally nomination presumably could have been blocked by liberal Democratic opposition. The weakened Nixon did not want a fight for the vice-presidential selection.

Connally's party bolt left a sour taste in the mouth of at least one prominent Texas Democrat who stood with George McGovern in 1972: Bob Bullock, the Hillsboromarker native who served as Texas secretary of state, comptroller and lieutenant governor: ". . . I got some ideas on Mr. Connally. He ain't never done nothin' but get shot in Dallas. He got the silver bullet. He needs to come back here and get hisself [sic] shot once every six months. I attack Connally on his vanity. He's terribly bad [sic] vain, y'know. . . . "

In 1975, Connally was accused of pocketing $10,000 for influencing a milk price decision by Texas lawyer Jake Jacobsen. At his trial, he called as character witnesses Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Barbara Jordan (the first African American woman state senator in Texas history), Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, and Billy Graham. Connally was acquitted.

Running for President

Connally announced in January 1979 that he would seek the Republican nomination for President in 1980. He was considered a great orator and strong leader and was featured on the cover of Time with the heading "Hot on the Trail". His wheeler-dealer image remained a liability. He raised more money than any other candidate, but he was never able to overtake the popular conservative front runner Ronald W. Reagan of Californiamarker. Connally spent his money nationally, while George H. W. Bush targeted his time and money in early states and won the Iowa caucus. Bush's status as a challenger to Reagan was heightened by this victory.

Connally focused on South Carolinamarker, an early primary state where he had the support of popular U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, but he lost there to Reagan 55 to 30 percent. He withdrew from the primary race. After spending $11 million during the campaign, Connally secured the support of only a single delegate, the late Mrs. Ada Mills of Arkansasmarker, who became known as the "$11 million delegate". Connally quickly endorsed Reagan and helped him win a narrow primary victory over Bush in the latter's adopted home state of Texas.

Connally said that he and Bush despised each other. The statement seemed to contradict Connally's earlier insistence that President Nixon name Bush to a post in the administration as a pre-condition for Connally's agreeing to become treasury secretary. Rumors also abounded in 1964 that Connally personally voted for Bush for senator because of his greater dislike for opponent Senator Ralph Yarborough. Charles Keating once contributed to Connally's campaign for President.

The later years

In 1986, Connally filed for bankruptcy as a result of a string of business losses in Houston.In December 1990, Connally and Oscar Wyatt, chairman of the Coastal Oil Corporation, met with President Saddam Hussein of Iraqmarker. Hussein had been holding foreigners as hostages (or "guests" as Hussein called them) at strategic military sites in Iraq. After the meeting Hussein agreed to release the hostages.

Connally was known as an immaculate dresser who wore expensive and stylish suits wherever he went. Biographer Charles Ashman related a story about Connally's carrying a cigarette lighter in his pocket and lighting cigarettes as a courtesy only for very wealthy men who might be inclined to contribute to his political causes or retain him as a consultant on business arrangements.

In one of his last political acts, Connally endorsed then Republican U.S. Representative Jack Fields of Houston in the special election called in May 1993 to fill the vacancy left by U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Houston. Bentsen was appointed Treasury Secretary in the new administration of Bill Clinton. Fields finished fourth in the special election and left Congress thereafter. Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, for whom Connally's daughter had been employed in the state treasurer's office, won the seat by a wide margin in the special election runoff against the appointed Democratic Senator Robert Krueger.


Connally died of pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive scarring of the lungs. His funeral was held at the First United Methodist Church in Austin, and he was buried at the Texas State Cemeterymarker in Austin. The Connally Loop in San Antonio is named in his honor. The Connally Memorial Medical Center in Floresville is named for John, Wayne, and Merrill Connally.

See also


  1. Charles Ashman, Connally: The Adventures of Big Bad John, New York: William Morrow Company, 1974, p. 62
  2. Ashman, Connally, pp, 70-71
  3. Ashman, Connally, pp. 70-71
  4. Ashman, Connally, p. 74
  5. Ashman, Connally, p. 89
  6. Ashman, Connally, pp. 90-01
  7. Ashman, Connally, pp. 95-96
  8. Ashman, Connally, p. 228
  9. Election Statistics, Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, Gubernatorial elections
  10. Quoted in Ashman, Connally, p. 109
  11. Quoted in Ashman, Connally, p. 167
  12. Ben Barnes with Lisa Dickey, Barn Burning Barn Building: Tales of a Political Life from LBJ to George W. Bush and Beyond, Albany, Texas: Bright Sky Press, 2006, p. 189
  14. Ashman, Connally, pp. 246-249
  15. ^ Bruce Schulman: The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics, Da Capo Press
  16. Ashman, John Connally, p. 271
  17. Ashman, Connally, pp. 62, 70
  18. Quoted in Ashman, Connally, pp. 284-285
  19. Connally said as much in a 1988 60 Minutes interview on CBS.

External links

  • Kelley Shannon, Associated Press, "Connally Dies at 87," September 3, 2006.

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