According to a statement from his family, Wright, 67, died peacefully Feb. 7 with his wife Susan by his side.
The family did not confirm Wright's cause of death, though both he and his wife had been hospitalized recently for COVID-19. He is the first sitting member of Congress to die after contracting COVID-19.
"Despite years of painful, sometimes debilitating treatment for cancer, Ron never lacked the desire to get up and go to work, to motivate those around him, or to offer fatherly advice," his office said in a statement.
Wright said on Jan. 21 he tested positive for COVID-19 after coming in contact with someone who had the virus the week before. Wright, a Republican, said he was in quarantine and would stay that way until his doctors gave him permission to return to work.
"I am experiencing minor symptoms, but overall, I feel okay and will continue working for the people of the 6th District from home this week. I encourage everyone to keep following CDC guidelines and want to thank all the medical professionals on the front lines who fight this virus head-on every single day,” Wright said.
In a statement Monday morning (full statement at the bottom of this article), Wright's family said "Ron and Susan Wright shared a deep and abiding relationship with their Lord and Savior. For that reason, Ron remained stoic in the face of his health challenges and incredibly upbeat about the future of the state and the nation he loved so much."
"Over the past few years, Congressman Wright had kept a rigorous work schedule on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and at home in Texas’ Congressional District 6 while being treated for cancer."
The family said that for the past two weeks both Ron and Susan had been admitted to Baylor Hospital in Dallas after contracting COVID-19. Susan was discharged from the hospital before her husband's death, Wright's spokesman, Matt Langston said.
NBC 5's Julie Fine said Wright, while quiet about his fight with cancer, was strong and was optimistic about beating the disease.
"When he told us that he had cancer we were surprised, you wouldn't have known. He was completely upbeat about it and willing to come on the show [Lone Star Politics] and talk about it. I can't say enough how much this was a man of faith and was relying on faith and family to get him through."
Fine remembers Wright as a man who was dedicated to his family and loved serving the people of North Texas.
"He had a wonderful marriage -- adored his wife. Absolutely adored his wife," Fine recalled. "When he was going through chemo, he was never out of Washington for more than a week. He was determined to represent his district. He loved Arlington and he loved the city. He loved what he did, loved being a lawmaker."
"Jill and I were saddened to learn of the passing of Congressman Ron Wright. A sixth-generation son of Tarrant County, Ron served the people of Arlington as a city councilor, as mayor pro tempore, as a county tax assessor-collector, as a long-time congressional staffer, and as a member of Congress representing the Sixth District," said President Joe Biden. "He was also a fighter who battled bravely against both cancer and COVID-19, diseases that our nation will continue working tirelessly every day to defeat in the memory of all those we have lost. Our prayers are with Ron’s wife, Susan, their three children, and their nine grandchildren."
Wright is survived by his wife, Susan; his son Derek; his son Justin and wife Susan; his daughter Rachel and husband Jeff; his brother Gary and wife Janis; nine grandchildren; cousins and extended family.
Wright will lie in repose at AT&T Stadium on Friday, Feb. 19 from 2-7 p.m. with a rosary to follow. His funeral will be Saturday, Feb. 20 at the Will Rogers Memorial Center Texas Ballroom at 11 a.m.
Both events are open to the public and people are encouraged to RSVP by clicking here.
A spokesperson for Wright said the venues were selected to adhere to CDC and Texas COVID-19 guidelines.
In lieu of flowers, the spokesperson said donations could be made to one of three charities Wright "held near and dear to his heart": Mission Arlington, Metroplex Women's Center or The National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation.
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley told NBC 5 Monday morning that he's known Ron and Susan for decades and that they've been great friends. He added that Wright was always dedicated to public service and making Tarrant County a great community to live in.
"His heart was always in public service, making things better for the citizens he served," Whitley said, adding that Wright was a consummate statesman. "[He was] someone who was really interested in making every place he served a better place and leaving it better than it was when he came to it."
Similar tributes rolled in Monday afternoon as word of Wright's passing spread.
Tarrant County District Clerk Tom Wilder remembers Wright as being genuine and as someone who never backed down.
“He didn’t have a bit of quit in him, and what you saw in private was what you got in public,” Wilder said.
“Ron Wright was the same guy all of the time. He was honest, full of integrity. He was the guy, the statesman that we always wanted and just full of integrity and the guy that you could count on for great solid advice,” said Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourne.
"Ron Wright was an incredible father, loving husband, and proud Texan. Battling cancer not once, but twice, Ron faced adversity with strength and grace, inspiring all who knew him," said U.S. Rep. Van Taylor (R-TX 3rd District). "I am lucky to have known Ron and proud to have called him a friend."
"I had the privilege of first meeting Ron many years ago when both of us served as congressional staffers working for two former Texas Congressional members and since then I have had the opportunity to work alongside him when he served in local government, and then most recently as a fellow member of the U.S. House of Representatives serving a district that is close to mine," said U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX 33rd District). "While we had very different views on many things, he was a man of honor who fought for what he believed in and had a passion for serving the people of Texas’ 6th district in Congress."
“I am greatly saddened to hear of Congressman Wright’s passing. When I was looking for a Republican to help lead the push to create the Garland VA, Ron Wright stepped up and was with me every step of the way. We had very different views on many things, but he was a man of principle and will be missed," U.S. Rep. Collin Allred (D-TX 32nd District).
"Lisa and I are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Congressman Ron Wright. We were fortunate to know Ron for many years and saw firsthand how Ron dedicated his life to public service," said State Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie, District 101). "Because Ron was always so friendly and good-natured, it was easy to set aside political differences and simply have a productive conversation about the communities we served together. That’s just one example of many why he will be missed. We extend our deepest condolences to Susan and to Congressman Wright’s family and staff."
Wright grew up in North Texas and graduated from Azle High School in 1971. After high school, Wright moved to Arlington where he attended the University of Texas at Arlington.
It was in Arlington where Wright began his extensive political career, first serving on the City Council from 2000 to 2008 including as mayor pro tem. At the same time, from 2000 to 2009, he served as the district director for U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-6th District) and was Barton's chief of staff from January 2009 until May 2011 when he left to accept an appointment by the Tarrant County Commissioners Court to replace Betsy Price (who was elected mayor of Fort Worth) as the county tax assessor-collector.
|Statement on Passing of Congressman Ron Wright |
Ron and Susan Wright shared a deep and abiding relationship with their Lord and Savoir. For that reason, Ron remained stoic in the face of his health challenges and incredibly upbeat about the future of the state and the nation he loved so much.
Congressman Ron Wright passed away peacefully at the age of 67 on Feb. 7, 2021. His wife Susan was by his side and he is now in the presence of their Lord and Savior.
Over the past few years, Congressman Wright had kept a rigorous work schedule on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and at home in Texas’ Congressional District 6 while being treated for cancer. For the previous two weeks, Ron and Susan had been admitted to Baylor Hospital in Dallas after contracting COVID-19.
Congressman Wright will be remembered as a constitutional conservative. He was a statesman, not an ideologue. Ron and Susan dedicated their lives to fighting for individual freedom, Texas values, and above all, the lives of the unborn.
As friends, family, and many of his constituents will know, Ron maintained his quick wit and optimism until the very end. Despite years of painful, sometimes debilitating treatment for cancer, Ron never lacked the desire to get up and go to work, to motivate those around him, or to offer fatherly advice. We ask that everyone give Susan and the entire Wright family and staff time to grieve. Additional information will be available on funeral arrangements and ways to honor Congressman Wright in the days to come.
Congressman Wright is survived by his wife, Susan; his son Derek; his son Justin and wife Susan; his daughter Rachel and husband Jeff; his brother Gary and wife Janis; nine grandchildren; cousins and extended family.
Philippians 4: 8-9
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Wright was elected to a full term as tax assessor-collector in November 2012 and held the position until November 2016. When Barton announced in 2017 that he did not intend to seek reelection after 34 years in office, Wright was the early frontrunner in a crowded field to claim Barton's seat.
Wright won the 2018 election and then won reelection to his second term in November 2020.
Wright's opponent in 2018, Jana Lynne Sanchez, said Monday that Wright served with passion while battling two tough diseases.
"Texans have lost one of our own with the passing of Congressman Wright. While we shared our differences, we both ran for Congress for the same reason: to fight for the people of North Texas. He served with passion while battling cancer and a deadly virus that has claimed far too many lives far too soon. I extend my heartfelt condolences to his family, staff, and friends during this difficult time,” Sanchez said.
The Congressman had been busy early in this legislative session, filing at least one new bill while seeing another become law.
Wright "reaffirmed his commitment to standing up for the unborn by reintroducing the Teleabortion Prevention Act and Child Custody Protection Act."
Of the legislation, Wright wrote, "With the Biden Administration and Congressional Democrats already gunning to roll back abortion restrictions, it's more important than ever that we continue to be a strong voice for the voiceless. Both these bills help prevent the destruction of unborn life, safeguard women’s health, and protect the conscience rights of millions of Americans. The sanctity of life has been my top priority and an issue I will continue to devote my life protecting."
Prior to President Biden's inauguration, Wright said he'd planned to object to the Electoral College Certification citing concern that the November 2020 election was not "safe and secure" after an unsubstantiated "concerning amount of voter fraud has been brought to our attention."
Following the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Wright condemned the violence and praised law enforcement in the nation's capital "for putting their lives on the line to protect us and secure the Capitol so my colleagues and I could finish the People’s business on the House Floor. No angry mob was going to stop us from fulfilling our constitutional duty."
On Jan. 13, Wright joined 197 other Republicans in voting "no" on House Resolution 24 -- the second impeachment of President Donald Trump.
"As our beloved country prepares for a peaceful transition of power into a Biden Administration, it’s time that we all come together, not as Democrats and Republicans, but as Americans. Abandoning norms and traditions to impeach President Trump with less than ten days left in his term will only cause more hatred and division across our communities," Wright said. "As Members of Congress, we have a duty to do what’s best for our nation. Let’s tone down the rhetoric and focus on the issues we came to Washington to solve for our constituents. We have a lot to be optimistic about, and it’s time we work together on common-sense solutions to get the United States of America back on track."
On Jan. 3, Wright's AIR Security Act became law following the veto-override vote in the U.S. Senate as part of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act. This bill was introduced along with Congressman Veasey in May of this year and passed this month by both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the NDAA.
The AIR Security Act prohibits federal airport improvement funds from being used to purchase passenger boarding bridges from companies that have violated the IP rights and threaten the national security of the United States. In a statement about the legislation, Wright's office said "it will be crucial in helping the United States be resilient against attempts by our adversaries, namely Communist China, and their state-sponsored enterprises to infiltrate critical systems and carry out espionage and intellectual property (IP) theft."
“China is the biggest national security threat currently facing our nation. Just this month, we saw how one of our own colleagues in the House of Representatives was compromised by a Chinese spy. We cannot underestimate the lengths the Chinese Communist Party will go to gain inroads to our most critical infrastructure systems,” said Wright. “The AIR Security Act will help prevent CCP backed companies from using our hard-earned taxpayer dollars to commit IP theft and industrial espionage on American citizens and markets. Although I do not agree with everything in the NDAA, I am happy to see the multiple provisions that were included to hold Communist China accountable.”
According to the biography on his House page, Wright, "has been active in both partisan and nonpartisan politics for many years and is a passionate public servant. He has served on a number of boards and commissions, including as president of the Arlington Night Shelter, Chairman of the Tarrant County Historical Commission, the Arlington Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, the Mansfield Education Foundation board, the Executive Committee of Arlington Human Service Planners, the Arlington Historical Society board, the Arlington Sports Authority, and as founding president of the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation. From 1995 to 2000 he was a weekly columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper. Wright has received numerous awards recognizing his civic leadership, including Volunteer of the Year, Man of the Year for Community Service, Hero of the Homeless award, Friend of Education commendation, the Partnership Award of the Fort Worth Builders Association, and a special award from the Arlington Historical Society."
NBC 5's Julie Fine contributed to this report.