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The Jim Wright Collection - Political Event at the Driskill (1963)

Texas Christian University

Silent | 1963

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  •  Congressman Jim Wright and his wife Mary receive a standing ovation upon their arrival 
  •  Then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson introduces Wright 
 
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This edited news footage captures a political event honoring United States Congressman Jim Wright of Fort Worth. Held at the historic Driskill Hotel in Austin, then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson introduces Wright to the assembled crowd, who greet Wright with a standing ovation.
Congressman James Claude Wright Jr.—better known as Jim Wright—was born on December 22, 1922, in Fort Worth. Due to his father’s job as a traveling salesman, Wright moved frequently, eventually graduating from Oak Cliff High School in Dallas. He studied at Weatherford College and the University of Texas at Austin, but never received a bachelor’s degree. 
 
Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Wright enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces, ultimately serving as a bombardier in the South Pacific. After the war, Wright returned to Weatherford, where he formed a Trade Show exhibition and marketing firm. 
 
Wright began his career in politics in 1946 when he was elected without opposition to the Texas House of Representatives. After losing his reelection campaign in 1948, he served as the mayor of Weatherford from 1950 to 1954. 
 
In 1954, Wright was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Democrat from Texas’ 12th congressional district. Holding the seat for 34 years, he gradually rose in prominence in both the party and Congress. Wright became the House Majority Leader in 1976, and Speaker of the House in 1986. During his time as a legislator, Wright served as a senior member of the Public Works Committee and promoted peace in Central America.
 
In 1988, the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into Wright, reporting in 1989 that he used bulk purchases of his book to earn speaking fees in excess of the allowed maximum. That same year, Wright also became the target of public criticism after media reports revealed that his main aide, John Mack, had violently attacked a woman 16 years earlier, and alleged that Wright (whose daughter was married to Mack’s brother) had manipulated the legal system in order to release Mack from prison only 27 months into his 15-year sentence. The resulting scandal from both incidents led Wright to resign from his post as Speaker as well as his seat in Congress in May and June of 1989, respectively. 
 
After leaving Congress, Wright retired to Fort Worth, teaching as a professor at Texas Christian University and writing several books. He passed away on May 6, 2015, at the age of 92. Upon his death, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stated, “Speaker Wright’s strong, decisive leadership built an indelible legacy of progress, not only in his beloved state of Texas, but around the world.” 
Thirty-sixth president of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, was born on a hill country farm near Stonewall, Texas, on August 27, 1908, to Samuel Ealy Johnson, a former Texas legislator, and Rebekah Baines Johnson. He attended Southwest Teachers College, now Texas-State University, graduating with a degree in history and social science in 1930. LBJ spent one year as principal and teacher in Cotulla, educating impoverished Hispanic elementary school students. LBJ became the secretary to Texas Congressman Richard M. Kleberg in 1931; the four year position helped him gain influential contacts in Washington. Johnson married Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor on November 17, 1934.
 
LBJ acted as Director of the National Youth Administration in Texas from 1935 to 1937. Johnson won his first legislative election in 1937 for the Tenth Congressional District, a position he held for eleven years. He was a firm supporter of President Roosevelt’s New Deal and in 1940 acted as Chairman of the Democratic Campaign Committee. In 1948, following his service as a Lieutenant Naval Commander during World War II, LBJ ran as the Democratic nominee for Senate. In a cloud of controversy, he narrowly defeated former Texas Governor Coke Stevens and easily beat his Republican opponent in the general election.  Before winning his second senate term, LBJ was elected Majority Whip in 1951, became the youngest ever Minority Senate Leader in 1953, and was voted Majority Leader in 1954. Johnson unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960 but was selected to be Vice President under John F. Kennedy. 
 
Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as Commander and Chief aboard Air Force One following President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, and won reelection in 1964. President Johnson passed landmark legislation with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Debate over military efforts in Vietnam intensified in late 1963 when the President stated that the United States would not withdraw from Southeast Asia. Escalation of the war against North Vietnam brought disapproval from Democrats, claiming the efforts were misguided, and from Republicans who criticized the administration for not executing sufficient military vigor. Antiwar protests, urban riots, and racial tension eroded Johnson’s political base by 1967, which further dissolved following the Tet Offensive in January 1968. On March 31, 1968, President Johnson announced that we would not seek a second presidential term.
 
After returning to Texas, Johnson oversaw the construction of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum on the University of Texas campus in Austin. Throughout his political career, LBJ was an influential figure in Texas affairs; his policies brought military bases, crop subsidies, government facilities, and federal jobs to the state. After suffering a massive heart attack, former President Johnson died at his ranch on January 22, 1973. In February of the same year, NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston was renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, in honor of one of the country’s most influential Texans
The Driskill Hotel was opened by cattle baron Jesse Lincoln Driskill in 1886 as a showpiece for the emerging capital city of Austin. A luxurious building with arched entryways and limestone features, the grand hotel was reminiscent of the palaces in New York, Chicago, and St. Louis. It quickly became the place to throw lavish Governor’s balls and host international dignitaries. Jesse Driskill was forced to sell the hotel in 1888 due to a severe drought that cost him his fortune. After years of being traded and sold, the Driskill’s fifth owner, Major George W. Littlefield, vowed the hotel would never close again and initiated a $60,000 renovation in 1895. 
 
President Lyndon Baines Johnson had his first date with his future wife, Lady Bird, in the downstairs dining room of the Driskill in 1934. This marked the beginning of the Johnsons’ lifelong love for the hotel. In the 1950s, the Johnsons rented suites at the Driskill to serve as the offices of their news station, KTBC. It was also the site of Lyndon’s campaign headquarters, where they awaited election results for both the vice-presidential and presidential elections, and the couple frequented their own presidential suite during his presidency.
 
After a planned rennovation falling through, the Driskill Hotel faced demolition in 1969. The Heritage Society of Austin strived to get the building recognized as a historic landmark and succeeded. A series of fundraising campaigns amounting to over $700,000 allowed for the hotel to reopen in 1972, and it has been in operation since that time. Known as one of the most haunted hotels in the country, ghostly spirits have been reported roaming the old hallways, including Jesse Driskill himself!