A generation after former House Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, left the nation’s capital few colleagues remain to attend his funeral Monday.
Instead of a planeload of members going to a service from Washington, as is often the case when a former member dies, only a handful of members appear likely to be going to Fort Worth for the ceremony.
Wright, 92, who died Wednesday, served on Capitol Hill from 1955 to 1989 when he resigned from the House under an ethics cloud and returned to Texas.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., is the highest ranking member confirmed to attend the 2 p.m. service at First United Methodist Church in Fort Worth. Hoyer, elected in a special election in 1981, served with Wright for eight years before the then-speaker resigned under pressure of an ethics investigation into his financial dealings and outside income.
“Jim Wright lived a full and extremely productive life,” said Hoyer in a statement. “I counted him as a friend, supporter, and someone I admired for his commitment to people, his courage in pursuing his principles and his skill as a political leader. He served his state, his country and the House of Representatives well. To the end, Speaker Wright was focused on the issues and challenges that confront our people, the Congress and our country.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is on a trip to Japan and her office was unsure about arrangements for Monday.
Among the attendees will be former Reps. Martin Frost, D-Texas and Bill Alexander, D-Ark.; Washington-based Texas Democratic activist Matt Angle, who is from Fort Worth; and long-time D.C. political operative George Bristol, whose career stretches back to the congressional days of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Bristol now lives in Fort Worth.
“I served with him for 11 years,” Frost said of Wright. “He was an extraordinary figure in our history. He was helpful to the careers of younger members, especially from Texas, and we all are better for it.”
Wright, then the majority leader, had Frost appointed to the House Rules Committee in 1979 after he was first elected, a plum assignment for a freshman.
Washington lobbyist Kip O’Neill, a son of late Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, D-Mass., said that he regretted he could not go to pay his respects to Wright, who was leader when O’Neill was speaker and succeeded him.
“There aren’t very many people left who knew him,” he said, of Wright. “My family’s very sad. He was a dear friend of dad’s...He was the most loyal majority leader that ever existed. His last year (as speaker) was a fateful year, but it did not do his whole career justice.”