|Born||Clymer Lewis Wright, Jr.
July 24, 1932
|Died||January 24, 2011
|Alma mater||University of Southern Mississippi|
(1) Sandra Jean Lee Wright (married ca. 1954–1988, her death)
Cindy W. Gabriel-Flynn
Clymer Lewis Wright. Jr. (July 24, 1932 – January 24, 2011) was a Texas conservative political activist and a crusading journalist later credited with bringing term limits to Houston municipal government and encouraging Ronald W. Reagan to seek the American presidency.
A veteran of the United States Army in the Korean War, Wright was active in the Baptist Church and in the alumni association of his alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
During the middle 1950s, as owner and editor of the Fort Bend Reporter in Rosenberg, Texas, Wright survived death threats targeting himself as well as his family, but he joined with state authorities and the Texas Rangers to rid Galveston and Fort Bend County, outside Houston, of organized crime, including brothels and illegal gambling casinos. Wright sold the Fort Bend Reporter as early as 1957. After further changes of ownership, on August 27, 2005, it assumed the name, the Fort Bend Herald and Texas Coaster.
Wright later published a second conservative newspaper, the Houston Tribune.
Like Reagan, Wright was known for his unique personality of optimism, laughter, and zest for living. In 1968, he was a leader of "Texans for Reagan," but the California governor did not enter that presidential race until he reached the national convention held in Miami Beach, Florida. By that time, Richard Nixon had sewn up sufficient support to become the party's nominee for the second nonconsecutive time.
Wright was part of the 100-member Reagan delegation to the 1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. When delegates nominated Gerald R. Ford, Jr., Wright said: "There is no way I am going to support Jimmy Carter. But Ford is going to be a drag on our local candidates. Naturally, it's going to take so much time to work for them, we're not going to have much time to work for Ford."Barbara Staff, the Texas Reagan co-chairman from Dallas, said "You may just see a big apathetic heartbreak take over. I would say at this point most people here are not going to work for Ford."
In 1980, Wright chaired the Texas finance committee for the successful Reagan presidential campaign even though two other Houston-based candidates were also in the running, George H. W. Bush, the eventual vice president, and John B. Connally, Jr., the governor of Texas from 1963–1969, who had switched to the Republican Party in 1973 after the death of his mentor, former President Lyndon B. Johnson.
In 1982, Wright joined Howard Phillips, a former Nixon administration official who founded the Conservative Caucus, in an unsuccessful effort to convince Reagan to dismiss Houston attorney James A. Baker, III, from the position of presidential chief of staff. Wright claimed that Baker, a former Democrat and a political intimate of Bush, was undercutting conservative initiatives in the administration. Not only did Reagan reject the Wright-Phillips request, but in 1985, he named Baker as United States Secretary of the Treasury, at Baker's request in a job-swap with then Secretary Donald T. Regan, a former Merrill Lynch officer who became chief of staff. Reagan also rebuked Wright for waging a "campaign of sabotage" against Baker.
On February 6, 2011, thirteen days after Wright's death, Jim Baker was invited by Nancy Davis Reagan to deliver one of the principal addresses from the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, to commemorate the former President's 100th birthday.
In search of term limits
In the early 1990s, Wright formed the interest group, "Citizens for Term Limitations," which worked successfully in passing the initiative that established term limits of three two-year terms in the nation's fourth largest city. San Antonio also enacted term limits about this time. Wright's hard-hitting style thrilled his backers but outraged his leftist political opponents. When Houston officeholders knocked on doors to oppose the term limits initiative in 1991, Wright urged backers of term limits to "Sick your dogs on 'em." The success of the term limits measure coincided with the election of Democrat Bob Lanier, who unseated Mayor Kathy Whitmire, a ten-year incumbent, in the officially nonpartisan election. The 1991 initiative passed with 56.9 percent of the vote. In 1994, Wright spearheaded a second voter drive that removed a loophole that Houston officials created in the law which had enabled them to petition for a ballot position even after three terms.
In his later years, Wright fought to conserve public spaces that had been within the Inwood Forest Golf Country Club near his home. He remained involved in public-interest issues and conservative candidates until his death.
In 2000, he served as the national finance chairman for presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan, the former Republican who ran as the Reform Party's nominee. In 2008, Wright supported U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas, an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. When the GOP nominated U.S. Senator John S. McCain of Arizona, Wright contributed to the Constitution Party nominee Chuck Baldwin, a Baptist pastor in Pensacola, Florida, who has since relocated to Montana.
Though Wright did not support McCain for President with any contributions, he was finance chairman in 2007–2008 for the Republican congressional candidate Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, who failed in her second bid for the position, having lost in 2006 to the Democrat Nick Lampson. Then Gibbs lost the 2008 Republican primary to Pete Olson as the representative from Texas's 22nd congressional district, a position once held by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Fort Bend County. Wright declared that Gibbs, a physician, was "exactly the type of principled, conservative leader we need in TX-22, and I'm proud to give her my support."
Wright's greatest political success lay with the Houston term limits. While numerous politicians have floated trial balloons to rescind the term limits, they nevertheless remain in place. Upon Wright's death, Barry Klein, another Houston conservative activist, said in an email: "Incumbents in City Hall are probably breathing easier."
Wright himself ran for office only once, in the 1993 special election for the U.S. Senate seat vacated when Democrat, Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr., also of Houston, resigned to join the Bill Clinton administration as the treasury secretary. Wright finished near the bottom of the multi-candidate field with only 5,111 votes statewide, less than one quarter of 1 percent of the vote. The seat was ultimately won by Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, who unseated the appointed incumbent Robert Krueger in a runoff election.
Family and death
While studying journalism in college, he met his future first wife, the former Sandra Jean Lee, the mother of his three children during their 34-year marriage, which ended with her death in 1988. In 1990, Wright married the former Mary Katherine Sheftall (January 5, 1943– November 11, 2010), a Houston native and the daughter of the late Dell M. Sheftall, Sr. (died 1963), and the former Alice Frances Elliott (1903–2008). Mary Wright attended Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and worked for both the Whitehall Hotel and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston before joining Clymer Wright at Aflac Insurance. Her daughter from a previous marriage is Lisa Kay Baker of Paso Robles, California. Mary Wright died of heart failure in a Houston hospital at the age of sixty-seven. Prior to their deaths, the Wrights had been helping to rear a grandniece, Haley Nicole Millsap. Mary Wright was descended on her mother's side from John M. Bozeman, a mountain man who discovered and named the Bozeman Trail. Bozeman, Montana, is also named for him.
Wright was found dead, apparently of natural causes, by a housekeeper. He was sitting in a chair, wearing pajamas, and the morning newspaper was nearby. Daughter Cindy Gabriel-Flynn said that her father had not been ill but was preparing for back surgery and had been in a state of grief since the death of his wife, who prior to her own passing had spent years taking care of her elderly mother.
In addition to daughter Cindy and her husband, George Flynn, Wright had two other children, Clymer Wright, III (born 1961), and wife, Toni, of Scottsdale, Arizona; and Linda Wright Tomasetti and husband, Barry, who is school superintendent in Kennett Square in Chester County in southeastern Pennsylvania. Wright was survived by a sister, Suzanne W. Gillies of Houston; a brother, Michal Wright of North Carolina; five grandchildren, and one great-grandson.
A memorial service was held on January 30, 2011, at Christchurch Baptist Fellowship at 12501 Champion Forest Drive in Houston.
One of Wright's admirers, Gary M. Polland, former Harris County GOP chairman, said that the activist "had an infectious personality, strong laugh, and his enthusiasm and zest for ideas and issues would leave you passionate one way or another."
- "Clymer Wright". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
- "Doug Miller, "Clymer Wright, conservative term-limit advocate, found dead in his home," January 25, 2011". KHOU-TV. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
- "Aimee Buras, "Clymer Wright, force for Houston term limits, found dead," January 25, 2011". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
- "About Fort Bend Herald and Texas Coaster". fbherald.com. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
- Carolyn Barta, "Texas GOP 'fire' wanes," Dallas Morning News, August 19, 1976, p. 6A
- "Phil Gailey and Warren Weaver, Jr., "Briefing"". The New York Times, June 5, 1982. June 5, 1982. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
- "Secretary James Baker: Reagan Made Us All Proud As Americans". realclearpolitics.com. Retrieved February 7, 2011.
- "Clymer Wright – $8,500 in Political Contributions 2008". campaignmoney.com. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
- "Shelley Sekula Gibbs Officially Announces for TX 22". sekulagibbsforcongress.com. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
- "Special election returns, May 1, 1993". elections.sos.state.tx.us. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
- "Special election runoff, June 2, 1993". elections.sos.state.tx. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
- "Mary Katherine Wright obituary". obits.dignitymemorial.com. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
- "Alice Frances Elliott Sheftall obituary". archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved January 29, 2011.
- "Kennett Consolidated School District: Summary of School Board Meeting, December 2009". kcsd.org. Retrieved January 29, 2011.
- "RIP - Great Conservative Republican Leader Clymer Lewis Wright Jr.". texasconservativereview.com. Retrieved February 7, 2011.