CONNALLY BEGAN HIS CLIMB ON THE BOTTOM RUNG

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by Bartee Haile

A young naval officer from South Texas destined for his own brand of greatness was just another face in the crowd, as Gen. Charles de Gaulle rode triumphantly through the streets of Algiers on May 22, 1944. John Connally told the story of his remarkable life in In History’s Shadow shortly before his death in 1993. This book, the source of most quotations in this column, may be the most readable and candid autobiography of any Texas politician. The family tree was planted in the Lone Star State by Connally’s great-grandfather.

The Alabama emigrant and a neighbor both named their sons after the founder of the Methodist denomination. John Wesley Hardin grew up to be the deadliest gunfighter in Reconstruction Texas, and John Wesley Connally became a farmer in Wilson County. That was where the father of the future governor was born in 1889. Twenty eight years later, he named the fourth of his eight offspring John Bowden Connally, Jr. Years later the politician refused to play the poverty card despite advisors’ pleas to “talk more openly about knowing humble times. I wasn’t comfortable with up-from-poor talk. I did not try to conceal my roots, I simply chose not to exploit them.”

 

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