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Governor of Texas
John Bowden Connally, Jr. was born on a farm near Floresville, Texas, on February 27, 1917. He attended Harlandale High School in San Antonio, graduated from Floresville High School, entered the University of Texas in 1933, and received his law degree from the UT School of Law in 1941. Commissioned into the United States Naval Reserve in 1941, Connally served as a fighter director aboard aircraft carriers and went through nine major air-sea battles in the Pacific Theater. He attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander by war's end, and returned home a hero.
Advisor to Lyndon B. Johnson
Connally began his political career in 1939, as legislative assistant to Representative Lyndon B. Johnson. This was the beginning of a close personal relationship that lasted until Johnson's death in 1973. Connally managed five of Lyndon Johnson's major political campaigns, including re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1946, the 1941 and 1948 races for the U.S. Senate, the unsuccessful bid for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 1960, and the election to the presidency in 1964.
In 1961, at Johnson's request, President John F. Kennedy named Connally as his Secretary of the Navy. Connally served in this position for about eleven months, before resigning to run for Governor of Texas.
Governor of Texas
In 1962, Connally was elected Governor by a margin of 26,000 votes. He was re-elected by a 3-to-1 vote margin in 1964, and won a third term in 1966 with 72 percent of the vote.
As "an education Governor," Connally used his political skills to increase taxes substantially in order to finance higher teachers' salaries, better libraries, research, and new doctoral programs.
Governor Conally also promoted programs to reshape and reform state government, to develop the state's tourism industry (including an endorsement of liquor by the drink and pari-mutuel betting), to establish a state fine arts commission and a state historical commission, and to establish the University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures.
Governor Connally received serious gunshot wounds during the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.
Connally did not run for another term in 1968. After leaving office in 1969 he joined Vinson and Elkins, a large law firm in Houston.
Adviser to Richard Nixon
In 1970, Connally was named a member of President Richard M. Nixon's Foreign-Intelligence Advisory Board. He became Nixon's Secretary of the Treasury in 1971, a position he held until 1972. As Secretary of the Treasury, Connally sought to address the nation's growing trade deficit and inflation by such mechanisms as currency devaluation and a price freeze.
In 1972, Connally spearheaded a Democrats for Nixon organization that helped Nixon carry Texas. In 1973, three months after Lyndon Johnson's death, he switched his party affiliation to Republican. In the wake of Vice-President Spiro Agnew's resignation in October 1973, Nixon passed word that he wanted Connally to fill the vacancy. Senate Democrats, however, made it clear that Connally would never be confirmed, and Nixon ultimately chose Gerald Ford instead.
Retirement from Politics
On January 24, 1979, Connally announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. His campaign was less than successful, however, and he dropped out after a fourteen-month campaign. He subsequently endorsed Ronald Reagan and helped him win a narrow primary victory over George H.W. Bush in Texas. This was his last entry into the world of politics and government.
In 1981, Connally went into the business of real estate development. Having gotten in on the ground floor of the boom in the Texas oil industry, Connally and his partner had sixteen major projects worth $231 million underway by mid-1983. But, when the oil boom ended, so too did the real estate business, and Connally was subsequently forced to declare bankruptcy.
Connally died on June 15, 1993, at the Methodist Hospital of Houston, where he was being treated for pulmonary fibrosis. He is buried in the State Cemetery in Austin.
While at the University of Texas, Connally met and married Idanell Brill (December 20, 1941). The couple had four children.
In 1999, Texas Monthly magazine named Connally as the foremost Governor of the 20th Century.
This page was last updated on March 29, 2017.