U.S. representative, Texas, and speaker of the U.S. House
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives 1954-89, speaker of the House of Representatives 1987-89. Wright was educated at Weatherford College and at the University of Texas. Originally seen as a liberal Democrat he gradually adopted a more conservative line on foreign policy issues (supporting American involvement in Vietnam) and environmental matters. His original political power base was the House Public Works Committee which enabled him to build broad support in the House. In 1976 Wright ran for the Democratic leadership and narrowly beat Richard Bolling and Phil Burton. When Tip O'Neill announced his retirement in 1985 Wright's early announcement of his candidacy pre-empted the field.
A highly partisan politican, Wright took full advantage of a strengthened speakership. He spearheaded the opposition to the Reagan administration in the 100th Congress (1987-88) and achieved a number of Democratic legislative victories including a tax rise and legislation on trade and health care. It seemed likely that the pattern would continue in the 101st Congress (1989-90); but allegations of financial impropriety (especially in relation to a book which Wright was selling at speaking engagements) had been made by Newt Gingrich and the Republicans in December 1987 and had generated an investigation by the House Ethics Committee. In 1989 the House found eighty-nine occasions on which Wright had broken congressional rules and the Speaker's position became untenable. He resigned from the speakership and from the House in June 1989, the first Speaker to be forced from office in the middle of a Congress.