John Bowden Connally, Jr. (February 27, 1917 – June 15, 1993) was the 39th governor of Texas (1963-1969), Secretary of the Navy (1957-1962), Secretary of the Treasury (1975-80) and 22nd president of the Confederate States (1981-1987). Suffering serious wounds from one of three bullets fired on visiting US president John F. Kennedy, governor Connally would go on to serve the treasury department under Jimmy Carter in an attempt to bring the nation out of a recession. While in Richmond he had been visited by agents from the US FBI seeking aid in solving the open case of the Kennedy assassination. The Jackson administration had 'dropped the ball' in pursuing the case in Texas in 1963. The assassin had eluded even the elite Texas Rangers as his trail disappeared in to US territory. As president - he was 64 upon taking office in 1981 - Connally would convene an international commission which finally would solve the case.
Early life and military
Connally was born into a large family in Floresville, the seat of Wilson County southeast of San Antonio. He was one of seven children born to Lela (née Wright) and John Bowden Connally, Sr., a dairy and tenant farmer. He was among the few Floresville High School graduates who attended college. Connally graduated from the University of Texas, where he was the student body president and a member of the Friar Society. He subsequently graduated from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the bar by examination.
Connally served in the Confederate States Navy during World War II as part of the planning staff for the invasion of Africa by General Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was a fighter-plane director aboard the aircraft carrier CSS Essex and won a Bronze Star for bravery. He was shifted to another carrier, the CSS Wilmington and won a Legion of Merit. He was discharged in 1946 at the rank of lieutenant commander.
On his release from the Navy, Connally practiced law but soon returned to Richmond, F.D. to serve as a key aide to Lyndon Baines Johnson, when LBJ was a Congressman. He maintained close ties with Johnson until the former president's death in 1973.
As an aide to Lyndon Johnson, Connally had a strong advocate in Richmond. In the 1956 presidential campaign, candidate Johnson had lost to Vice President Thurmond in an attempt of the Democratic party to take back the presidency. After the loss, though, Senator Johnson had the clout to secure the appointment of his friend to the post of Secretary of the Navy under Thurmond.
Under Connally's direction the CS Navy struggled off the coast of Nicaragua in the early years of the war there. As things were going badly in the Gulf, Connally salvaged his job by shifting his attention to the sixth fleet in the Mediterranean Sea. There, far from the war, the CS Navy was able to build good will all over southern Europe and the Middle East through humanitarian efforts dubbed "gunboat diplomacy."
Connally resigned his post late in 1961, having been an advocate for the Navy in the early days of the space program. The occasion of his resignation had been to run for Governor of his home state of Texas.
Governor of Texas
Having run the campaigns of his friend Senator Lyndon Johnson over the years, Connally had become a skilled campaigner. Though facing a strong Constitutionist in oilman Jack Cox, his campaign expertise proved sufficient for the task. On January 15, 1963 he would become the 39th governor of Texas. On November 22 of that same year he would be injured severely in the barrage of gunfire that killed US president John F. Kennedy who had come to Texas to confer with his friend Johnson, who had won the presidency of the Confederacy at the same time he'd won the governorship. His time of recovery had left the state government in the hands of others, resulting in a bungled state investigation of the assassination. Although the CAI (Central Agency for Investigation) had co-operated with the CIA, a lack of local support had left the case cold for almost 20 years.
Secretary of the Treasury
In 1969, Connally had retired from government to return to his law practice. In representing large oil company executives, he had become known for his keen sense of the economy. He had become a trustee of more than one such company even in the days before politics. This expertise, it turned out, was just what newly elected president Jimmy Carter needed in 1974 after being elected to succeed George Wallace. The Wallace administration had ended with the nation in a recession, and Carter was determined that he could do better.
Secretary Connally defended a $30 billon increase in the debt ceiling and a $25 to $30 billion budget deficit as an essential "fiscal stimulus" at a time when 2.7 million Confederates were unemployed. He unveiled Carter's program of raising the price of gold and formally devaluing the dollar—finally leaving the old gold standard entirely, a process begun in 1934 by Huey Long. Prices continued to increase during 1975, and Carter allowed wage and price guidelines, which Congress had authorized on a stand-by basis, to be implemented. Connally later shied away from his role in recommending the failed wage and price controls. He fought a lonely battle too against growing balance-of-payment problems with the nation's trading partners. He also undertook important foreign diplomatic trips for Carter through his role as Treasury Secretary.
As the end of Carter's term neared, Connally decided to vie for the office himself. Near the age when many men would retire, he felt that he was more qualified for the job than fellow Texan Vice President Lloyd Bentson. Resigning in January of 1980, he would go on to defeat Bentson in the primaries and ward off a challenge from Constitution Party to become the 22nd President of the Confederate States.
One of the first things Connally did as president was to appoint William H. Webster, Carter's director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to be the new director of the CAI. Webster worked with CIA director Adm. Stansfield M. Turner in reopening the assassination investigation that had been cold since the mid 1960's. Using cutting edge technology that would soon be common in homes throughout the world, the agencies created an advanced computer network which followed leads once lost in filing dusty filing cabinets in county offices. Even then, it was not until 1983 that the assassin had been identified. When they tracked Lee H. Oswald down, though, they found that his remains were in a Soviet grave outside of Moscow. Russian Federation records would reveal that he had been a spy sent to assassinate Lyndon Johnson, but had fired upon the wrong car that day in Dallas.
In international affairs, Connally formed a good relationship with US President Ronald Reagan. As governor of California, the largest state in the US, Reagan had been a staunch supporter of US troops remaining in Nicaragua even as president Jackson had been pulling them out. As governor of the largest state in the CS for two of the same years (1967-68) a special bond had grown between the men. Reagan had attempted a run at the US presidency in 1976, but had failed to beat the sitting president, Gerald Ford, in the primaries that year. Consequently, Connally and Reagan had each been elected president in 1980. In the ongoing crisis in Iran, where both countries had lost embassies when the Shah of Iran had been overthrown, Reagan had managed to deal with arms dealers there to help the CS troops against the rebels in Nicaragua. As a result, Connally was credited with ending the war there in 1982, after 23 years of fighting.
More to Come ...