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U.S. Rep. Ron Wright of Texas dies after battle with COVID-19

Ron Wright (United States Congress/Released)

Republican Rep. Ron Wright, known as a staunch constitutional conservative, principled leader and member of the Freedom Caucus, died Sunday after a battle with COVID-19. He was 67.

Wright, a lifelong Texan, represented the 6th Congressional District, which includes southeast Tarrant County, including most of Arlington and Mansfield, and all of Ellis and Navarro counties. He had held the office since 2018.

For the previous two weeks, Ron and his wife Susan had been admitted to Baylor Hospital in Dallas after contracting COVID-19. Wright was also being treated for a second bout of stage 4 lung cancer he announced July 29, 2019.

He said in December 2019 on the House floor he was being treated with “an immunotherapy wonder-drug called Keytruda,” which was approved for his regimen in May 2017. He used the success of the drug to argue against government forcing pharmaceutical companies to offer cancer drugs at lower costs, saying it could kill the innovation required to make the drug.

He told Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy in a Jan. 25 text message from Baylor Hospital that he was also facing pneumonia that came with the COVID infection. He said in the text that he was “on the mend.”

“We need to package this stuff and send it back to China,” Wright jested in the text.

Political friends, rivals and Wright’s office have been responding to his death through statements and on Twitter.

“Congressman Wright will be remembered as a constitutional conservative,” a statement from his office read. “He was a statesman, not an ideologue. Ron and Susan dedicated their lives to fighting for individual freedom, Texas values, and above all, the lives of the unborn.

“As friends, family, and many of his constituents will know, Ron maintained his quick wit and optimism until the very end. Despite years of painful, sometimes debilitating treatment for cancer, Ron never lacked the desire to get up and go to work, to motivate those around him, or to offer fatherly advice.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called Wright a “principled leader who fought to preserve Texas values” and an “exemplary representative of his district.”

“His personal strength and commitment to standing up for the unborn were unwavering,” Abbott said. “He leaves behind a tremendous legacy for future generations of Texans. Cecilia and I send our prayers to Ron’s wife, Susan, his family and loved ones.”

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said he lost a friend of more than 30 years in Wright.

“I knew Ron and his wife for over three decades and there are no more dedicated public servants who were always there trying to make things better,” Whitley said.

Whitley said one of his favorite things about Wright was his love for Tarrant County history. Wright would often send out quizzes about little-known Tarrant County history and fun facts, always focusing on something he’d found interesting in his research of the county’s past.

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams said he’s mourning the loss of a dear friend and colleague.

“Ron will be remembered as a tireless fighter for North Texas who brought his conservative principles and love of country to the United States Congress every single day,” Williams said in a statement shared on Twitter.

Williams added: “We’ll all miss his signature bowtie and warm personality in the halls of the Capitol, a presence that cannot soon be replaced.”

Wright was elected to his first office in 2000 as a City Council member in Arlington, a position he held until 2008.

Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said Wright made great contributions to the city, both serving on city council and as a congressman representing the city in Washington. He was also a personal friend whose death Williams said is a huge personal loss and a huge loss for the city.

“There were many times as a community leader that I would go to Ron with challenges, especially when he was on council,” Williams said. “And so many times he came up with great solutions. He was a master of listening and developing great solutions and pathways.”

Wright later worked as chief of staff to Rep. Joe Barton from 2009 to May 2011, when he was appointed to replace Betsy Price as Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector.

Whitley said he recalled how proud Wright was to be appointed to the position and being given another opportunity to serve the people of Tarrant County.

In 2014, Wright had the slogan “In God We Trust” put on the official tax assessor-collector documents and envelopes in Tarrant County, saying the motto should be used more often public entities.

He was elected to retain that office in 2012 and remained until 2018, when he was elected to the U.S. House.

That’s where Rep Lance Gooden, R-Canton, said he and Wright became close friends. With offices in the capitol two doors down from each other, Gooden said it was clear to see Wright often overworked himself out of a passion for the people he served.

“He suffered quietly quite a bit but kept on keeping on,” Gooden said of Wright during his battle with cancer. “Only when he was so bad he had to be checked into a hospital did he miss a vote. He was being effective even when he was sick.”

Several people noted how important his wife, Susan Wright, was not only in his private life but in his political work.

“She was by his side not just when in the hospital but when working for the people,” Gooden said. “They were such a strong force and such a great team.”

Whitley said when he thinks of Ron Wright, he thinks of Susan Wright with him by default. They were a team in everything.

Outside of political office, Wright was the founding president of the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation and served as president of the Arlington Night Shelter, chairman of the Tarrant County Historical Commission and a member of the executive committee of the Arlington Human Services Planners.

Wright, who was still undergoing treatment for lung cancer, announced Jan. 21 that he had tested positive for COVID-19. He had come in contact with someone who had the virus while in Washington.

State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, recalled meeting the congressman several years ago. Krause was “instantly impressed with his calm demeanor, conservative principles, (and) Godly attitude,” he said on Twitter.

“Our country, state, (and) county are better for his life,” Krause said.

The Texas Democratic Party in a news release said the outpouring of prayers and messages of support demonstrate the type of man Wright was and show his popularity among Texans.

Wright’s Democratic opponent in the 2018 congressional election Jana Lynne Sanchez called Wright “one of our own.”

“While we shared our differences, we both ran for Congress for the same reason: to fight for the people of North Texas,” Sanchez said. “He served with passion while battling cancer and a deadly virus that has claimed far too many lives far too soon.”

Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn said the support and mourning from both sides of the political aisle isn’t surprising.

“The world today needs so much civility and when I say that word I equate it to Ron Wright and the way he handled himself,” Waybourn said. “I don’t care what side of the aisle you’re on or where you’re from, if you reached out and asked Ron Wright for help he was going to answer that call. He didn’t care who you were or were you were from or what your politics were, he was going to reach out a hand to help and he was going to do what he said he would.”

Wright is survived by his wife; his son Derek; his son Justin; his daughter Rachel and her husband Jeff; his brother Gary and his wife Janis; nine grandchildren; cousins and extended family.


(c) 2021 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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