A throng for former congressional colleagues, North Texas elected officials, personal friends and ordinary citizens turned out at Fort Worth’s First Methodist Church last week to pay final tribute to former U.S. Speaker of the House Jim Wright. He had passed away a few days earlier at the age of 92.

Telling him goodbye was very personal with me, because our relationship goes back more than 60 years. I handled advertising and public relations for his very first congressional campaign in 1954.  It was an upset victory that would lead to a 34- year career in Congress during which he became one of the giants in national leadership. At the same time, it was the first major political campaign win of my fledgling career, which would lead to  scores of other campaigns from the Courthouse to the White House.

Wright was a voice for the common man. In his original campaign when he opposed a three term encumbent   backed by the Fort Worth power structure, he promised to be “a Congressman for all the people.” In a highlight of that theme, he wrote a famed full page ad attacking powerful newspaper publisher Amon G. Carter and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for failure to publish his views while endorsing his foe. (More about that story another time) Yet following his victory, he worked tirelessly with community leadership to support important projects. Those included  defense contracts, the Wright Amendment that helped enable D-FW Airport to become one of the most powerful economic engines in the world , and the  V-22 Osprey, a revolutionary vertical takeoff aircraft that would become a valued asset of the U.S. Marine Corps. The Speaker would take special pride in witnessing the V-22’s role in the recent daring U.S. raid that killed a top terrorist leader.

Speaker  Wright’s effectiveness was underscored  only a few years after his first election when Amon Carter, Jr, son of publisher Carter, became finance chairman for his reelection campaign.

I was blessed in enjoying s reunion of sorts with Jim Wright less than two years ago. In preparation for the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, a West Coast film producer contacted me for help on a documentary  to air on that milestone in  2013. At his request, I helped organize a re-creation of a single table of 12 attendees of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce breakfast where President John F. Kennedy last spoke in 1963. Jim Wright was one of the first I called since he was a key organizer of the event. Although now frail, he graciously attended and relived a time forever engraved in our  memories.

–Julian Read

May 18, 2o15