Obituary: John Connally

John Bowden Connally, lawyer and politician: born Floresville, Texas 27 February 1917; served US Navy 1941-46; Secretary of the US Navy 1961; Governor of Texas 1963-69; Senior Partner, Vinson Elkins 1969-70, 1972-85; Secretary of the Treasury 1971-72; Adviser to the President 1973; married 1940 Idanell Brill (two sons, one daughter); died Houston 15 June 1993.

'BIG JOHN' Connally's public life was as vivid, expansive and explosive as his home state of Texas. From a modest background he became governor of the state, served two presidents, was wounded in the limousine in Dallas when John Kennedy was assassinated, was the subject of an industry kickback scandal, gambled in real estate and made and lost a fortune. In one of the more spectacular multi- million-dollar bankruptices that followed the Texas bust of the late Eighties, Connally was forced to sell a treasure-chest of personal property, including his silver-inlaid saddle.

He looked and behaved like a Texan, but with some of the rough edges smoothed over. They called him a suave Lyndon Johnson, who was his mentor. He was a political opportunist, without compassion. He urged President Nixon to consider the use of nuclear weapons to win the Vietnam war. Johnson reportedly once said of Connally's political campaign tactics that he 'could leave more dead bodies in the field with less remorse than any politician I ever knew'.

Tall, handsome, personable, articulate and bursting with energy, he galloped over the rough terrain of Texas state politics, changing horses on the run when it suited him. He was Secretary of the Navy in the Kennedy administration and Secretary of the Treasury under Richard Nixon.

His life began on a farm. His father had been a cowboy, barber and a grocer and then a tenant dairy farmer. He went to local schools and the University of Texas, where he gained a law degree. He served in the navy during the Second World War, winning the Bronze Star for valour in the Pacific.

After the war he switched back and forth from Democratic to Republican party politics, helping Lyndon Johnson win his Senate seat, Eisenhower win the presidency, and then back to Johnson when he ran as Kennedy's vice-president. Kennedy made him navy secretary, and in 1961 a letter landed on his desk from a man called Lee Harvey Oswald complaining about his dishonourable discharge from the marines. Connally thought the shots fired at the limousine that day in Dallas in 1963 were meant for him.

Always on the conservative wing of the Democratic party, Connally caught Nixon's eye and was made Treasury Secretary in 1971. A long- time friend of big business, Connally was largely responsible for the Federal guarantee of some dollars 250m in loans to the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, then suffering from military budget cutbacks. He was also a central figure in the end of the Bretton Woods fixed exchange-rate system and the devaluation of the dollar.

Three months after Johnson's death in 1973, Connally formally left the Democrats, saying the Republican party was 'his true philosophical home' because 'it best expressed the broad view of most Americans, whatever their party affiliation'. President Nixon appointed him as a White House adviser when the troubles of Watergate got too much for him, but Connally resigned when Nixon appointed Gerald Ford his vice-president to replace the disgraced Spiro Agnew. A year later Connally ran into a storm of his own. He was accused of taking dollars 10,000 from the American milk producers association after persuading Nixon to back a controversial increase in price supports for dairy farmers. He was exonerated by a federal jury in 1975.

He lost a bid against Ronald Reagan for control of the Republican party and in 1980 ran for president himself, spending almost dollars 12m to gain one single delegate at the Republican convention. In 1988 he declared bankruptcy. He was personally dollars 93m in debt after disastrous gambles in Texas oil and real estate. The auction of his property, including a 2,600-acre ranch and horses, left him with his ranch house and a mere 200 acres that he was allowed to keep, according to Texas law, to get started again. No one was surprised that a year later he was back in business.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss