HOUSTON -- Clymer Wright, the conservative political activist who brought term limits to Houston government, has been found dead in his northwest Houston home. He was 79 years old.
Wright apparently passed away of natural causes over the weekend, but his death went undiscovered until a housekeeper dropped by his Inwood Forest home Monday morning. She found his body slumped in a chair, still clad in pajamas. His morning newspaper lay nearby, according to his family.
"He had been grieving, and he wasn’t eating a lot," said his daughter, Cindy Flynn, adding that Wright’s wife died about two months ago.
Wright’s feisty style delighted his supporters but irritated his political opponents. When elected officials knocked on doors asking voters to sign petitions in an effort to keep their term-limited jobs, Wright gleefully crowed, "Sick your dogs on ‘em."
Wright started earning his conservative stripes in the 1950’s. After returning from the Korean War, he worked as an editor of a Fort Bend newspaper. His son-in-law, George Flynn, says Wright defied death threats to help shut down casinos and brothels that thrived in Galveston and Fort Bend County.
In the 1970s, he was an early Texas supporter of Ronald Reagan and he later served as state finance chairman for Reagan’s presidential campaign, Flynn said. He also published a conservative newspaper called the Houston Tribune.
But he made his biggest mark on Houston politics in 1991, when he led a successful effort to impose term limits on Houston’s mayor, controller and city council members. Disillusioned voters were about to oust Houston’s five term mayor, Kathy Whitmire, and replace her with real estate developer Bob Lanier. Wright wrested from Lanier a signed commitment to run for no more than three terms.
His leadership of a grassroots movement—which many insiders still consider a legacy of his own unrealized political ambitions—helped convince Houston voters to restrict local elected officials to six years in office.
A number of local political leaders have launched trial balloons to amend or rescind term limits, but their efforts have consistently fallen flat.
Wright is survived not only by three children, but also by the term limit restrictions he imposed on Houston politicians.