Thousands expected to try to say goodbye to former Speaker Jim Wright

Congressman Jim Wright speaks outside the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth on Nov. 22, 1963.
Congressman Jim Wright speaks outside the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth on Nov. 22, 1963. UTA Special Collections

Former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright may not have wanted all the fuss.

But on Monday, city streets will be closed off around the church where his funeral service will be — and shuttle buses will deliver those who want to attend — as thousands of people are expected to try to say one final goodbye to the legendary politician.

“It’s hard to know he’s not going to be around any more,” said U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, one of many members of Congress who plan to attend Monday’s funeral. “So many people will give reflections on his life, how he influenced them and how he loved Fort Worth and the Metroplex.

“It was incredible the volume of knowledge he had and that he was willing to share,” said Veasey, who called Mr. Wright a mentor. “This is a big loss.”

Mr. Wright, 92, died Wednesday morning.

He spent decades on Capitol Hill as a House member, majority leader and House Speaker, from 1955 to 1989, when he resigned from the House under an ethics cloud and, along with his wife Betty, returned to Texas.

Mr. Wright settled into what he said was a satisfying routine that included giving lectures, writing books and teaching a government course at TCU.

Monday’s funeral at First United Methodist Church in Fort Worth is expected to be so crowded that church officials have set up two overflow rooms, which means they may be able to seat a crowd of around 2,000 people.

And they plan to live stream the service.

“Additional details are still pending, but we anticipate very high attendance, heightened security, and likely, remote parking in several locations with continuous shuttle bus access provided between church and designated remote parking areas,” according to a statement from the church.

City officials sent out a note Friday that several streets near the church will be closed Monday “to facilitate heavy vehicular and pedestrian traffic, parking and traffic control in the interest of public safety.”

Among the streets that will be closed: Florence Street from 1st Street to 3rd Street from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.; 3rd Street from Henderson to Burnett from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and 5th Street from Henderson to Cherry Street from noon to 4 p.m.

Speakers at the service are expected to include:

▪ Former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, a Democrat who represented portions of Tarrant County for 26 years and credits the former speaker for putting him on the powerful House Rules Committee when he was a freshman.

▪ Paul Driskell, who served as a special assistant to Mr. Wright.

▪ Former U.S. Rep. Bill Alexander, D-Arkansas, who served in the House under Mr. Wright.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., is expected to be among those attending the service.

Hoyer, elected in a special election in 1981, served with Wright for eight years before the then-speaker resigned under the 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.

Other attendees from Washington, D.C. are expected to include Washington-based Texas Democratic activist Matt Angle, who is from Fort Worth; and longtime 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.

Loyalty remembered

“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.”

Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

Maria Recio, 202-383-6103

Twitter: @maria_e_recio

Service information

Visitation: 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Thompson’s Harveson & Cole Funeral Home, 702 Eighth Ave., Fort Worth.

Funeral: 2 p.m. Monday at First United Methodist Church, 800 W. Fifth St. in downtown Fort Worth. A reception will follow in the church’s Wesley Hall.

Burial: In City Greenwood Cemetery in Weatherford. At 4 p.m., a motorcade will leave the church for the cemetery. Starting at 4 p.m., access to Interstate 30 will be closed as the procession passes.

How to get to the church: A shuttle will run from 12:30-4 p.m. Monday from the east lot at Farrington Field, 1501 University Drive, to and from the church. No parking will be available at the church, and nearby streets will be closed.

How to watch the service: The church plans to live stream the service through its website. To watch, click here.

Memorial donations: To a food bank, a public radio station or a youth boxing organization of the giver’s choice.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram