Jim Wright: He made a difference whenever he could.

Jim Wright, center, on the happiest and saddest day of his life. He welcomed President John F. Kennedy to his Fort Worth hometown. Hours later, the President had been assassinated. On the right is a young reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Roger Summers.
Jim Wright, center, on the happiest and saddest day of his life. He welcomed President John F. Kennedy to his Fort Worth hometown. Hours later, the President had been assassinated. On the right is a young reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Roger Summers.

News Item: Former U. S. House Speaker Jim Wright Dies at 92 on May 6.

It was a bridge to somewhere.

It was a bridge Jim Wright helped bring.

Helped secure some construction money for.

A bridge that made a difference – an enormous difference — to then-small Azle, Texas, just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from downtown Fort Worth.

A town at that time of no more than a couple dozen businesses, a couple dozen thousand folks.

Jim Wright’s kind of folks.

Azle in those 1960 days was more or less highway locked – locked in by Highway 199 which ran through it – leaving Azle with not much of a good way to get into and out of the city.

The bridge was a way to help Azle grow.

Prosper.

More fully know its potential.

Open Azle’s world wider.

Take it down the road, so to speak.

Jim Wright did his part to make it happen.

On a bright Saturday afternoon, Jim Wright – though he surely had a full plate to tend to in his busy Washington – came down to help dedicate that bridge.

And, in that way, help encourage those who called Azle home about their future, about their possibilities.

There are incalculable such stories, stories of how he helped in places throughout his congressional district and beyond, stories that span the congressman’s decades of dedicated public service, stories that collectively and each in its own way say:

Jim Wright cared.

# # #

Second Story: It was election night. Hundreds had gathered at the courthouse to watch election returns, as was custom in those paper ballot days.

Late in the evening, one of the big precincts reported: Jim Wright got some 2,000 votes. An opponent got maybe ten votes.

A grandmotherly type was moved to tears.

How, she wondered aloud, could ten people possibly bring themselves to not vote for the wonderful Jim Wright?

# ##

Third Story: Just after dark, in front of a Washington, D.C., hotel.

Jim Wright and an aide had driven there in their cars to pick up a delegation from back home that was on a nationwide tour to look at convention centers and baseball parks which their county government planned to build.

They were locked in animated conversation, cheerful greetings when suddenly a cab started to hurriedly pass them.

Jim Wright was standing near a front fender, his back turned to the cab. The cab veered in Wright’s direction, squeezing him firmly against the fender.

Others in the group pounded on the cab, yelled at its driver to stop.

What if they had not been successful in getting the cab driver’s attention? Getting him to stop?

How would history have changed?

# # #

An announcement is expected soon in Fort Worth about a planned memorial that will honor Jim Wright and his decades of public service.

Roger Summers is a journalist, essayist and author.

 

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