Life After Congress: Jim Wright
It’s been almost 25 years since Speaker Jim Wright resigned from the House in scandal after he was caught breaking House ethics rules, making him the first speaker to resign.
But the Texas Democrat did not go into hiding. Instead, Wright moved back to his home state and, in 1992, began a long career as a professor of political science at Texas Christian University, located in his former congressional district.
Each fall for almost 20 years, Wright taught a course titled “Congress and the Presidents,” but in 2010, he stopped teaching after his health began to fail.
Now 90, Wright occasionally makes it back to campus to help tutor students.
“His health prevents him from being available as much as he used to be, but he meets with students several times each month,” said Jenny Sanders, assistant director of communications at TCU.
Sanders said the university hosts an annual symposium that honors Wright — this year it was held Feb. 22 and featured remarks from Texas GOP Rep. Kay Granger — and keeps a collection of Wright’s papers, photos, books and other memorabilia that document his political career.
Wright served in the House from 1955 to 1989 and ascended the ranks to become House majority leader in 1977 and speaker a decade later.
His political career ended when then-Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., spearheaded an ethics investigation into the speaking fees that Wright drew for a book he wrote, as well as perks that his wife received to avoid gift limits set by congressional ethics rules. Wright’s political demise helped fuel Gingrich’s ascent to power, including his election as speaker in 1994.
For years, Wright kept silent on what he thought of Gingrich. But in March 2012, when Gingrich was making a bid for the presidency, Wright broke that silence, calling Gingrich “very sociopathic” in an interview with The Dallas Morning News.
“In my view, he’s not the kind of person who we should put in a position of authority or responsibility over other people,” Wright told the newspaper. “He has an insatiable desire to attack and scandalize anyone who seems to stand in the way of his own personal desires and ambitions.”