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November 20, 2013

'He was truly a beloved president': Former Speaker recalls ride in JFK motorcade

WEATHERFORD, Texas — The name Jim Wright is known in wide political circles, from Texas all the way to Washington D.C.

Once the mayor of this Fort Worth suburb, Wright was later elected to Congress and then named Speaker of the House, serving under eight presidents in total.

But it was while serving under John F. Kennedy in 1963 that one incident forever changed his world.

"It was a marvelous day in Fort Worth," Wright, now 90, said of the morning of Nov. 22, 1963, when he greeted Kennedy in Fort Worth, one of his many stops in Texas as he prepared for his next presidential campaign. "It was an emotional high seeing our president, hearing him and his speech at the [Fort Worth] Chamber of Commerce breakfast. There was optimism and upbeat hope."

Following the breakfast, Wright, Kennedy, Texas Gov. John Connally and others hopped aboard Air Force One to for the 13-minute flight from Carswell Air Force Base to Love Field in Dallas.

"While on board, the president asked Gov. Connally and myself to come and sit with him in his private quarters," Wright said. "He asked us to explain for him the pushes that led to the development of Fort Worth and Dallas, and why the two towns were are different as they were.

"We were doing our best to tell him what we knew and what we could put together on that subject. Shortly after when the plane landed, the president looked at us and said, 'We must consider this conversation this afternoon on the way to Austin.'"

It would be the last conversation Wright and Kennedy would have.

"That day was an emotional roller coaster," Wright recalled. "Before it was over, it had us all down in the lowest level of despondency."

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