Things to know about former House Speaker Jim Wright, who died Wednesday at age 92:
IN THE DALLAS MOTORCADE
As a prominent Texas Democrat, Wright joined officials in welcoming President John F. Kennedy to Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, riding in the presidential motorcade as it passed through Dealey Plaza. Kennedy’s assassination that day cast a shadow on the city and the state for a generation. “To describe the depth of sadness that engulfed us that day defies vocabulary,” Wright once said, recalling how the friendly mood of the Dallas crowds turned to “sheer terror and horror.”
Wright’s career in Congress is linked to that of Newt Gingrich, who as a Georgia congressman pushed an ethics investigation against Wright that helped bring about the speaker’s resignation in 1989. Just months before Wright left Congress, House Republicans chose Gingrich as their whip, a major step in his path toward the speakership in 1995. Four years later, Gingrich’s own ethical lapses led to his departure. Wright later said his feelings about Gingrich “are similar to those of a fire hydrant toward dogs.”
WRITER AND AUTHOR
Selling his self-published book, “Reflections of a Public Man,” led to the accusations of evading limits on outside earnings that helped bring about Wright’s resignation as House speaker. But that didn’t end his career as a writer. In addition to writing a weekly column for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for more than 10 years, he wrote several books. “Worth It All: My War for Peace” (1993) looked at the U.S.-Nicaraguan/Central America peace effort. In 1996, he wrote “Balance of Power: Presidents and Congress from the Era of McCarthy to the Age of Gingrich,” and in 2005 he revisited World War II in, “The Flying Circus: Pacific War — 1943 — as Seen Through a Bombsight.”
People flying in and out of Dallas have reason to remember Wright’s name. The Wright Amendment, passed by Congress in 1979, restricted direct commercial air travel from Love Field, near downtown Dallas, to nearby states. It was designed to foster growth at the new Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. President George W. Bush signed legislation to repeal the amendment in 2006 and loosen some flight restrictions. The amendment expired in October.
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