Bud Kennedy

In Weatherford, Wright to rest among frontier heroes, Texas legends

Bill Warren spruces up the Wright family marker Friday. A flag marks where Jim Wright will be buried.
Bill Warren spruces up the Wright family marker Friday. A flag marks where Jim Wright will be buried. Star-Telegram

Former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright is coming home Monday as promised, to rest near two Texas legends who lived the real-life Lonesome Dove.

Once the most powerful lawmaker in Washington, Wright will be buried near trail drivers and pioneers in his hometown’s oldest cemetery, where gravestones tell the city’s history from the frontier to Broadway and beyond.

The Wright family plot is only steps from the grave of theater and movie star Mary Martin. Not far away lie rancher Oliver Loving, mortally wounded by Comanches in 1867, and Bose Ikard, the former slave who drove cattle alongside Loving and rancher Charles Goodnight.

At a 1997 dedication for refurbished City Greenwood Cemetery, Wright said he first attended a funeral there for a great-great aunt, “and the last funeral I ever will attend will be in this cemetery.”

Bill Warren, a former Lockheed Martin Aeronautics accountant, has written a history of the combined city park-cemetery.

“With the cowboys from the cattle trails, and the Civil War veterans, and the leaders from Texas and Washington, this is like a walk through Texas history,” he said Friday morning, using a brush to clean monuments as county jail trusties trimmed bushes.

Early 20th-century Gov. S.W.T. Lanham and son U.S. Rep. Fritz Lanham rest here, along with one of Stephen F. Austin’s original “Old Three Hundred” Texas settlers and a military Medal of Honor winner from the Union side.

Wright’s father, Jim Wright Sr., was born west of town and based a trade association here after a career as a traveling sales rep. He and Wright’s mother, Marie, are buried here along with a sister, Mary Wright Connell.

By 27, Wright had flown B-24 missions, launched his Democratic political career as a delegate and state representative, and been elected mayor of Weatherford.

From Congress, he came home to Weatherford countless times, often to help an alma mater, Weatherford College.

Jonelle Bartoli of the Parker County Historical Commission remembered his 1997 speech at the cemetery, often called “old City” to distinguish it from others named Greenwood.

“What impressed us was when he said old City would be his resting place,” she said Friday, “and now he’s come home as he said.”

Bartoli called the cemetery an “outdoor museum” that draws out-of-town visitors, many to Loving’s and Ikard’s graves.

“There are visitors here all the time for Mary Martin,” she said.

“But if they step out of a truck wearing blue jeans and cowboy hats, I know who they’re looking for.”

Author Larry McMurtry always says the characters in his 1985 novel and 1989 TV miniseries Lonesome Dove are made up, but parts of the story vaguely track the lives of Loving (“Gus McCrea”) and Ikard (“Josh Deets”).

Loving, an 1850s settler and rancher, died in New Mexico after a Comanche attack, and young rancher Charles Goodnight (the novel’s “Woodrow Call”) promised to take his body back to Texas.

Historians doubt Ikard was on the funeral procession-trail ride that brought Loving’s body home, but he worked as a trail driver with Goodnight.

A few months after Ikard died in 1929 at about age 70, Goodnight, by then 93, ordered a tombstone for Ikard:

“Served with me four years on Goodnight-Loving Trail, never shirked a duty or disobeyed an order, rode with me in many stampedes, participated in three engagements with Comanches, splendid behavior. — C. Goodnight.”

In a letter to a nephew, Goodnight described Ikard as a great friend who shared “terrible trials” and “the most skilled and trusty man I had.”

It all seems like something out of, well, a McMurtry book.

When Ikard died, Wright’s parents were already in their 30s and had moved away from Weatherford on the way to Jim Wright Sr.’s sales career.

Young Jim Wright was 7 and in elementary school in Houston. That year, another move brought him to William James Elementary School in Fort Worth.

Born in a time when Civil War veterans and trail drivers were still telling their tales, Wright would live long enough to tell new generations of college students about Washington and his own modern-day political trials, engagements and stampedes.

At his resting place, they’ll find a story behind every stone.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

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Service information

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.

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