John Connally, Superstar

June 19, 1993

John Connally's life was extravagant and improbable even by Texas soap opera standards. Compared to him, J. R. Ewing was a mild-mannered ribbon clerk.

Mr. Connally, who died Tuesday at 76, was among other things campaign manager in the most notorious Senate election in modern times (Lyndon Johnson's of 1948); a Democrat who supported Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon; secretary of the Navy in a Democratic administration; secretary of the Treasury in a Republican one; the most unsuccessful (or at least the most inefficient) presidential candidate in history (he spent over $12 million campaigning in 1976 and won exactly one Republican delegate).

In addition to all this, he twice came thisclose to becoming president of the United States without even having been a presidential candidate:

In 1972, Richard Nixon wanted to dump Spiro Agnew as his vice president and replace him with Democrat Connally, but conservative Republicans would not go along.

And in 1973, after Mr. Agnew was forced to quit as vice president, President Nixon considered asking Congress to appoint the by then-Republican Texan, but in the face of Democratic opposition to the turncoat he did not. Had Mr. Connally been chosen in either instance, he would have become president when Mr. Nixon resigned.

We haven't even mentioned that he was elected governor of his state three times. Or that he gained enormous wealth after he became billionaire oilman Sid Richardson's lawyer. Or that he was wounded (and may have been the target!) in the most dramatic American assassination in this century (John Kennedy's). Or that he won acquittal in the trial involving accusations of accepting bribes, thanks to super-lawyer Edward Bennett Williams. Or his bankruptcy -- $93 million of personal debt. Or. . .

You get the picture. An editorial, an obituary, even a biography can't capture Big John Connally, superstar. It would take about a 20-year run for a soap opera to do him justice.

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