Wright Patman

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 (1963–75). Patman was a fiscal watchdog who acted to protect American wage earners by identifying and preventing the excesses and unfair practices of the banks and the Federal Reserve. He sponsored the Robinson-Patman Act of 1935, which was designed to protect small retail shops against competition from chain stores by fixing a minimum price for retail products.[2]

Wright Patman
40th Dean of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1973  March 7, 1976
Preceded byEmanuel Celler
Succeeded byGeorge H. Mahon
Chairman of the
House Financial Services Committee
In office
January 3, 1963  January 3, 1975
Preceded byBrent Spence
Succeeded byHenry S. Reuss
Chairman of the
House Small Business Committee
In office
January 3, 1949  January 3, 1953
Preceded byWalter C. Ploeser
Succeeded byWilliam S. Hill
In office
January 3, 1955  January 3, 1963
Preceded byWilliam S. Hill
Succeeded byJoe L. Evins
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1929  March 7, 1976
Preceded byEugene Black
Succeeded bySam B. Hall
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from the 2nd district
In office
January 11, 1921 – January 13, 1925
Preceded byJ. D. Newton
Succeeded byGeorge W. Coody
Personal details
John William Wright Patman

(1893-08-06)August 6, 1893
Hughes Springs, Texas
DiedMarch 7, 1976(1976-03-07) (aged 82)
Bethesda, Maryland
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Merle Connor
Pauline Tucker[1]

Early life

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.[3] During World War I Patman enlisted in the United States Army as a private. He later received a commission as a first lieutenant and machine gun officer in the Texas Army National Guard's 144th Infantry Regiment, a unit of the 36th Division. He remained in the National Guard for several years after the war.[4]

Political career

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.

Early Congressional career

Patman as depicted in the Pictorial Directory of the 74th Congress

In 1928, Patman was elected to the House of Representatives from 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.[5] It was during the consideration of this bill that the Bonus Army came to Washington. Patman was a supporter of the New Deal.[6]

In January 1932, Patman spearheaded a movement to impeach Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon,[7] which forced the latter's resignation the following month.[8]

In 1935, Patman took on the cause of independent retailers, who were engaged in a nationwide battle to stop the growth of chain retailing by taxing chains and restricting their business practices.[9] Patman in the House and Joseph Taylor Robinson in the United States Senate were the sponsors of the 1936 Robinson-Patman Act, an effort to preserve independent wholesalers and retail outlets ("Mom and Pop stores") by preventing manufacturers or large retailers from becoming involved in wholesaling.[10]

Patman was one of four members of the Texas congressional delegation to originally sign the "Southern Manifesto," (Martin Dies Jr. signed subsequently) a resolution in protest of the United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.[11]

Watergate inquiry

Wright Patman's eponymous committee played an important role in the early days of the Watergate scandal that eventually brought down President Richard Nixon.

Texas Representative Wright Patman talk on his pension bill in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 3, 1939 with Robert L. Doughton, Chairman of the House Ways and Means

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. The Patman Committee's 1972 investigation was stymied by pressure from the White House, in part aided by Congressman Gerald R. Ford.[12] Despite these efforts to stop Patman, his investigative course ultimately proved to be Nixon's undoing in the sense that the money trail, as reported on in the Washington Post, helped lead to the establishment of the Ervin Senate Select Committee on Watergate in April 1973.

Loss of chairmanship

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.[13] Patman was replaced by Henry S. Reuss by a caucus vote of 152–117. The main reason given for the caucus removing Patman was concern about his age and effectiveness.[14][15]

Death and burial

Patman died of pneumonia in Bethesda, Maryland on March 7, 1976.[16] He was buried at Hillcrest Cemetery in Texarkana.[17]


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.[18] In addition, Wright Patman Lake and Wright Patman Dam in Northeast Texas are also named for him.[19]

In 2011 Rick Perry condemned the monetary policies of Ben Bernanke in populist-like language, earning him criticism from some mainstream Republicans, including Karl Rove. One observer, Alexander Cockburn, recalled that it used to be Texas Democrats like Patman who were regarded as the populists. According to Cockburn, 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?'"[20]


  • 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

See also


  1. "Today in Texas History: Wright Patman dies" Houston Chronicle, March 7, 2010. Retrieved 2014-09-25.
  2. Roger D. Blair, and Christina DePasquale. "Antitrust's Least Glorious Hour": The Robinson-Patman Act." Journal of Law and Economics 57.S3 (2014): S201-S216. in JSTOR
  3. Handbook of Texas Online - PATMAN, JOHN WILLIAM WRIGHT
  4. Victoria (Texas) Advocate, Guard Regiments are Being Formed, May 29, 1921
  5. "World War I Veterans Bonus Bill". United States House of Representatives.
  6. Black, Earl; Black, Merle (2002). The Rise of Southern Republicans. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-674-01248-6.
  7. "National Affairs: Texan, Texan & Texan", Time Magazine, January 25, 1932
  8. Associated Press, (AP) (February 10, 1932). "Patman Charges Against Mellon Are Voted Down". Spokane Daily Chronicle. p. 1.
  9. levinson, Marc (2019). The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America, 2nd ed.
  10. Walton, Gary M. (1979). Regulatory Change in an Atmosphere of Crisis. New York, NY: Academic Press, Inc. pp. 65–66. ISBN 978-0-12-733950-4.
  11. "Southern Manifesto on Integration (March 12, 1956)". WNET. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  12. Hersh, Seymour (August 1983), "The Pardon", The Atlantic Monthly
  13. Cox, Gary W.; McCubbins, Mathew D. (2007). Legislative Leviathan: Party Government in the House. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. p. 261. ISBN 978-0-521-69409-4.
  14. Alexander Cockburn, James Ridgeway, The Village Voice, Why They Sacked the Bane of the Banks, February 3, 1975
  15. Beverly Deepe, Enterprise Washington Service, Harlan Daily Enterprise, Demos Reluctant to Reveal Committee Chairmen Votes, January 21, 1975
  16. United Press International, (UPI) (March 8, 1976). "Veteran Demo Lawmaker Wright Patman Dies". Beaver County (Pa.) Times. p. A-2.
  17. Guttery, Ben R. (2008). Representing Texas. Charleston, South Carolina: BookSurge Publishing. p. 118. ISBN 978-1-4196-7884-4.
  18. "Wright Patman Congressional Federal Credit Union". www.usacreditunions.com/. USA Credit Unions.com. Retrieved March 20, 2015.
  19. Wauer, Roland H.; Elwonger, Mark (1998). Birding Texas. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press. p. 246. ISBN 978-1-56044-617-0.
  20. Cockburn, Alexander, "Rick Perry: One Lucky Son-of-a-B*", CounterPunch, August 19–21, 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-20.

Further reading

  • Levinson, Marc (2019), The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America, 2nd ed., ISBN 978-0-578-56210-0
  • 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, doi:10.1017/s0007123400004154, ISSN 0007-1234, JSTOR 193800
  • Stoller, Matt (2019), Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1501183089
  • Young, Nancy Beck (2000), Wright Patman: Populism, Liberalism, and the American Dream, Southern Methodist University Press, ISBN 0870744534
U.S. 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)

January 11, 1921 – January 13, 1925
Succeeded by
George W. Coody
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Emanuel Celler
Dean of the House
Succeeded by
George H. Mahon
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