Fort Worth, TCU say goodbye to Jim Wright

By Joey McReynolds

Hundreds of mourners, from Texas and Washington, D.C., alike, came together Monday to remember Jim Wright, the former House Speaker and influential Fort Worth congressmen.
Wright, who died last week at 92, was honored in a service at First United Methodist Church in Fort Worth Monday afternoon.
Tim Bruster, the senior pastor for the church, said although it was a solemn occasion, it was a time to celebrate the good works Wright accomplished in life.
“We also come together in gratitude for his life and his legacy,” Bruster said.
Wright represented what is now Texas’ 12th Congressional District, which includes Fort Worth and TCU, for 34 years and had a brief stint as House Speaker beginning in 1987.
After he resigned the speakership in 1989 amid a House Ethics Committee investigation, he taught political science at TCU for nearly two decades.
Several faculty, staff and alumni attended the service to remember Wright’s impact on TCU and the Fort Worth community.
“To him, public service was the highest calling a man could have,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a TCU political science professor. “That’s Jim Wright.”
Riddlesperger called Wright a “spell-binding speaker” who had an incredible capacity to remember peoples’ names and things about their lives.
Joshua Simpson and Pearce Edwards are both TCU alumni who took Wright’s last political science course in 2010. They both said it was a rewarding experience.
“He took an academic eye to his time in Congress,” said Edwards, who graduated in 2013 and now works in Dallas.
Simpson, a former student body president at TCU, said his former professor was “very balanced” on controversial subjects.
“[Wright] would appreciate differing opinions,” said Simpson, who also graduated in 2013 and now works in Austin. “He never spoke badly of someone in Congress.”
Bill Alexander, a former Democratic representative from Arkansas, said Wright continued his dedication to public service after his resignation from Congress.
“He lectured at Texas Christian University with an eagerness to inspire our nation’s youth,” Alexander said.
Martin Frost, a former Democratic congressman, said Wright’s dedication to public service had an effect on his colleagues on the Hill.
“We were better public servants because of Jim Wright,” said Frost, who also represented a district in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. “He always remembered the people who sent him to Washington.”
Frost said he last saw Wright in spring 2014 at his office on TCU’s campus. He said the former Speaker’s wit and intellect were alive and well in his final years.
“His body was frail, but his mind was sharper than ever,” Frost remembered.
Frost said Wright’s legacy will be hard to match.
“Fort Worth is a great city today because of Jim Wright,” Frost said. “We will never see his like again.”
As a representative and later as House Speaker, Wright directed millions in federal dollars to North Texas. He worked to bring major defense contracts to the area and also shepherded substantial infrastructure projects including flood control and the development of water reservoirs.
His name remained in the headlines last fall with the expiration of a series of flight restrictions on Dallas Love Field known as the Wright Amendment.
First United Methodist Church’s Bruster said Wright was a peacemaker in all aspects of his life. He recalled a time when Wright forced his bickering daughters to write essays about how much they loved one another.
“And he thought the Sandinistas and Contras were tough,” joked Bruster, referring to Wright’s role in peace talks involving the Central American nation of Nicaragua in the 1980s.
Wright’s great grandchildren led a benediction toward the end of the service.
The funeral procession departed the church shortly after 4:00 P.M.
TCU Police Officer George Steen said the Wright family wanted a TCU Police vehicle represented as part of the procession.
The procession left the church for the casket’s internment at City Greenwood Cemetery in Weatherford, the town where Wright was elected mayor more than six decades ago.