Jim Wright was born in Fort Worth in 1922 and spent his childhood in Texas and Oklahoma before attending Weatherford College and the University of Texas. Wright enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II and received his flyer’s wings and an officer’s commission at the age of nineteen. He flew combat missions in the South Pacific and received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Legion of Merit.
Wright began his political career after the war. He joined the Young Democrats of Texas and, in 1946, was elected to the State Legislature. While a member of the State Legislature, he supported lowering the voting age to eighteen, allowing women to serve on juries, and other similar issues that challenged the status quo. In 1950, he became the mayor of Weatherford, Texas, a position he held until 1954, when voters from the Twelfth Congressional District elected him to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Wright was a member of Congress for thirty-four years, from 1955 to 1989, a tenure that spanned eight presidents. During that time, he authored major legislation in the fields of foreign affairs, economic development, water conservation, and energy. The Interstate Highway System, Clean Water Program, and flood control are a few examples of the programs and issues he helped to advance while in office. Over time, he rose in stature within the Democratic Party. He was the House Majority Leader from 1976 to 1986 and Speaker of the House from 1987 to 1989. As Speaker, Wright presided over the 100th Congress, one of the most productive in terms of legislation passed in the House’s history. Speaker Wright’s efforts included working to reduce the national deficit and finding a way to bring peace to Central America.
After his resignation from Congress, Wright authored numerous books and articles and wrote columns and book reviews for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He taught a course in Political Science at TCU each fall entitled “Topics in American Politics: Congress and the Presidents.” from 1991 until 2010. He received the Golden Deeds Award from the National Exchange Club in 2014. He died on May 6, 2015.