John William Wright Patman
File:John William Wright Patman.jpg
40th Dean of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 1973 – March 1976
Preceded by Emanuel Celler
Succeeded by George H. Mahon
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1929 – March 7, 1976
Preceded by Eugene Black
Succeeded by Sam B. Hall
Personal details
Born (1893-08-06)August 6, 1893
Hughes Springs, Texas
Died March 7, 1976(1976-03-07) (aged 82)
Bethesda, Maryland
Political party Democratic
Religion Baptist

John William Wright Patman (August 6, 1893 – March 7, 1976) was a U.S. Congressman from Texas in Texas's 1st congressional district and chair of the United States House Committee on Banking and Currency (1965–75).

Early life[edit | edit source]

Patman was the son of John N. and Emma (Spurlin) Patman, was born near Hughes Springs in Cass County, Texas, on August 6, 1893. After graduating from Hughes Springs High School in 1912, he enrolled in Cumberland University Law School in Lebanon, Tennessee. Receiving his law degree in 1916 he was admitted to the Texas bar the same year.[1] During World War I Patman served as a private and a machine gun officer.

Political career[edit | edit source]

Patman was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1920. He left the House in 1924 when he was appointed district attorney of the fifth judicial district of Texas.

In 1928, Patman was elected to the House of Representatives in Texas's 1st congressional district. In 1932, Patman introduced a bill that would have mandated the immediate payment of the bonus to World War I veterans.[citation needed] It was during the consideration of this bill that the Bonus Army came to Washington. Patman was a supporter of the Landmark New Deal.[citation needed]

In January 1932, Patman spearheaded a movement to impeach Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon,[2] which forced the latter's resignation the following month.

He was the author of the landmark Robinson Patman Act in 1936.

One observer remembered Patman as a populist Democrat when, in 2011, Rick Perry had taken a pungent jab at Ben Bernancke. Patman, sitting as chair of the House Banking Committee in the early 1970s, "snarl[ed] at then Fed chairman Arthur Burns, before him to give testimony, 'Can you give me any reason why you should not be in the penitentiary?'”[3]

In 1975, Patman was voted out of his position as Chairman of the Banking committee by younger Congressmen, in a revolt against the 'Seniority system' which also removed Felix Edward Hébert and William R. Poage from their positions as chairmen. Patman was replaced by Henry S. Reuss by a caucus vote of 152–117. The main reason given for the caucus removing Patman was due to concerns about his age and effectiveness.[citation needed] Fourteen months later, Patman died at the age of 82 in Bethesda, Maryland.

In the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, the Wright Patman Congressional Federal Credit Union is named after him. This credit union serves the banking needs of elected and former members of the House and their staff. In addition, Wright Patman Lake in Northeast Texas is also named for him.

Watergate inquiry[edit | edit source]

Main article: Watergate scandal

Wright Patman's eponymous committee played an important role in the early days of the Watergate scandal that eventually brought down President Richard Nixon. The Patman Committee investigated the hundred dollar bills found on the Watergate "plumbers" upon their arrest, suspecting they could directly link them to CREEP, the president's re-election committee. This investigative course was on the money, as it ultimately proved to be Nixon's undoing in the sense that the money trail, as revealed in the Washington Post, helped plant the basis for the establishment of the Ervin Senate Select Committee on Watergate in April, 1973. (In the final analysis, however, the most universally adopted reason for seeking Nixon's impeachment was his obstruction of justice occurring in the "smoking gun" tape of June 23, 1972,[4] asking his aides to seek C.I.A. intervention through Director Richard Helms and Deputy Director Vernon Walters to stop the initial Watergate investigation, begun days after the break-in on orders of newly appointed F.B.I. Director L. Patrick Gray, for its supposed threat to national security in uncovering "the whole Bay of Pigs thing"--a Nixon reference which H. R. Haldeman, party to the June 23 conversation with Nixon, later equated in his book, The Ends of Power, published in February, 1978 in the wake of the House Select Committee's investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy, with Nixon's code phrase for the Kennedy assassination, though Haldeman later recanted the statement before he died.

The revelation of the existence of the White House taping system occurred during testimony to the Ervin Committee by Alexander Butterfield in July, 1973. The Patman Committee's 1972 investigation was stymied on pressure from the White House, in part led by Congressman Gerald R. Ford,[5] within a year to become Vice-President, appointed to the position by President Nixon after Spiro T. Agnew was forced to resign after pleading nolo contendere to charges of having received bribes during his stint as Governor of Maryland prior to 1969.

Many speculated at the time that Agnew was deliberately being tossed by Nixon onto the fire as a sacrificial lamb in an attempt to calm the furor surfacing from the previous summer's Senate Select Committee hearings on Watergate which had been nationally televised. Conversely, however, by nominating the moderate Gerald Ford as his new Vice-President, Nixon spread that much more the flames of discontent with his method of governing, resulting in the Articles of Impeachment returned by the House Judiciary Committee in late July 1974, prompting Nixon's decision to resign, effective at noon August 9.

Publications[edit | edit source]

  • Tax Exempt Foundations and Charitable Trusts: Their Impact on Our Economy (December 1962) 87th Congress, 2nd Session
  • Commercial Banks and Their Trust Activities: Emerging Influence on the American Economy (Washington DC 1968) 90th Congress, 2nd Session, volumes I and II

Notes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  • Owens, John E. (1985), "Extreme Advocacy Committee Leadership in the Pre-Reform House: Wright Patman and the House Banking and Currency Committee", British Journal of Political Science (Cambridge University Press) 15 (2): 149–168, ISSN 0007-1234, JSTOR 193800 

External links[edit | edit source]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Eugene Black
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
Sam B. Hall
Texas House of Representatives
Preceded by
J. D. Newton
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 2 (Linden)

Succeeded by
George W. Coody
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Emanuel Celler
Dean of the House
Succeeded by
George H. Mahon

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