Jim Wright: Local voices

Jim Wright, right, former Speaker of the House, is shown in 2005 with then Congressman Chet Edwards, D-Texas, at the book party for Wright. CREDIT: File photo by Rebecca D'Angelo for The Washington Post)

Various Fort Worth officials and longtime leaders offered their thoughts on the passing of former Speaker of the House Jim Wright.

From Dee J. Kelly, founder of Kelly Hart and Hallman law firm;

“Because he has been out of public office for several years, many of us in Fort Worth have forgotten how much he has meant to the City during the 34 years he served in Congress. From our interstate highway system, from American Airlines moving their headquarters from New York City to Fort Worth to the magnificent DFW Airport, Jim Wright played an essential role, not only in the development of the Airport, but also in protecting it from competition during its formative years, to Alliance Airport, our first industrial airport, to Bell Helicopter and its tilt-rotor program and General Dynamics with its F-16 Fighter program. For all of these Golden Deeds Fort Worth owes a world of gratitude to Jim Wright.

“When the city needed seed money for downtown revitalization, Jim Wright was able to obtain two UDAG grants totaling $9 million.

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“That $9 million in UDAG money performed wonders. It triggered private investments downtown totaling more than half a billion dollars and made possible the construction of a large number of magnificent new buildings – including Sundance Square and the Worthington Hotel.

“Fort Worth’s Western Heritage has been preserved with a whole series of EDA grants Jim obtained for the City of Fort Worth to revitalize the infrastructure and make possible dozens of new businesses. Again, this federal seed money has paid tremendous dividends.”

Jim Riddlesperger, Texas Christian University political science professor, who worked with Wright at the school.

“When you met him, he always began with ‘How are you?’ That was his style and also reflected who he was. He didn’t want a ‘Just fine’ for an answer. He wanted to hear about you and yourself. That’s a key to not only understanding him, but his political success.

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“It’s important to note that for the first 25 years after leaving Congress, he spent it in education.

“His memories of names was just astonishing.

“[At TCU] he would speak to a group of teachers – as he did every summer for years and years – and one of the teachers came up and asked if Mr. Wright would he mind if she came up and talked to him. She said that Mr. Wright had gone hunting with her father at his father’s cabin many years ago, probably in the ’40 or early ’50s..

“Well Mr. Wright, not just remembered the name of her father, but also her fathers’ two hunting dogs. That ability to connect with other people was legendary and a key to what made him successful.”

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From Pete Geren, currently president of the Sid W. Richardson Foundation, who replaced Wright as congressman in the 12th District. 

“If you ponder the heart of Jim Wright rather than what he accomplished over his storied career, it is the chapter of his life after Congress that tells you more than any other chapter about who Jim Wright really was.

“He could have done what nearly everyone does who leaves a senior position in government at the levels he served. He could have become a “consultant”, stayed in Washington and made a fortune. He chose to move back to Fort Worth and teach school and write at TCU. He had a servant heart and was drawn to public service because he wanted to improve the lives of others.”

From Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price:

“The former speaker served our country for arguably his whole life with more than three decades in the U.S. House of Representatives and prior to that on the front lines as a B-52 gunner. Jim Wright will always remain as one of The Greats in the greatest generation. His legacy and fortitude as an impassioned and dedicated public servant will never leave us. The full impact of Wrights legacy will continue to be realized for generations to come both across the North Texas region and the nation.”