Harvey Bright

Harvey Bright

Harvey Bright was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, in 1920. After graduating from high school Bright worked in the Texas oilfields. He later entered Texas A&M University and received a degree in petroleum engineering in 1943. He then joined the Army Corps of Engineers.

After the Second World War Bright worked for Sun Oil Company. Later he used the $6,500 he has saved from his Army pay and began trading oil leases with his college roommate. The two men eventually started Bright & Co., an exploration and production company.

By 1950 Bright had became a millionaire. He used his wealth to invest in real estate, trucking and financial services, eventually owning more than 120 companies.

Bright developed extreme right-wing political opinions and along with his friends, Clint Murchison, Sid Richardson, George Brown, Herman Brown and Haroldson L. Hunt, was a supporter of the John Birch Society. They also funded politicians in the Senate to ensure the preservation of the oil depletion allowance, which permitted oil producers to treat up to 27.5 per cent of their income as tax exempt.

In 1962 John F. Kennedy started to take on the oil industry. The Kennedy Act, passed on 16th October, removed the distinction between repatriated profits and profits reinvested abroad. While this law applied to industry as a whole, it especially affected the oil companies. It was estimated that as a result of this legislation, wealthy oilmen saw a fall in their earnings on foreign investment from 30 per cent to 15 per cent.

In a speech made on 17th January, 1963, President Kennedy suggested that he intended to bring an end to the depletion allowance. As he pointed out: "no one industry should be permitted to obtain an undue tax advantage over all others." It was estimated that Bright and his friends might lose around $300 million a year if the oil depletion allowance was removed.

Bright, along with Edgar R. Crissey and Nelson Lamar Hunt, helped to pay for the full-page, black-bordered anti-Kennedy advertisement that ran in the Dallas Morning News on the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The advert, placed by Bernard Weissman, attacked Kennedy's foreign policy as being anti-American and communistic. This included the claim that Gus Hall, "head of the U.S. Communist Party praised almost every one of your policies and announced that the party will endorse and support your re-election in 1964". It also attacked Kennedy's domestic policies. Another passage asked why Robert Kennedy had been allowed "to go soft on Communists, fellow-travelers, and ultra-leftists in America."

Rumours began to circulate that Bright might have been involved in the assassination of Kennedy. Madeleine Brown, claimed in an interview on the television show, A Current Affair that on the 21st November, 1963, she attended a party at the home of Clint Murchison in Dallas. Others at the meeting included Bright, Haroldson L. Hunt, J. Edgar Hoover, Clyde Tolson, John J. McCloy and Richard Nixon. At the end of the evening Lyndon B. Johnson arrived. Brown said in this interview: "Tension filled the room upon his arrival. The group immediately went behind closed doors. A short time later Lyndon, anxious and red-faced, reappeared. I knew how secretly Lyndon operated. Therefore I said nothing... not even that I was happy to see him. Squeezing my hand so hard, it felt crushed from the pressure, he spoke with a grating whisper, a quiet growl, into my ear, not a love message, but one I'll always remember: "After tomorrow those goddamn Kennedys will never embarrass me again - that's no threat - that's a promise."

In 1984 Bright purchased the Dallas Cowboys from Clint Murchison. According to R. C. Slocum: "When the Cowboys thing came up, he was so worried they were going elsewhere. Buying the Cowboys was a business deal, but a big part of it was also keeping the Cowboys in Texas." Bright sold the Dallas Cowboys to Jerry Jones in 1989.

Bright gave a great deal of money to charity. For example, he donated $5 million to Children's Medical Center of Dallas. In 1996, Bright made an unrestricted endowment of $25 million to Texas A&M University.

Harvey Bright died at his Highland Park home on 11th December, 2004.

Primary Sources

(1) Anthony Summers, The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover (1993)

Texan oil moguls Clint Murchison and Sid Richardson... had assets in excess of $700 million, not counting as much again in untapped oil reserves.

Recognizing Edgar's influence as a national figure, the oilmen had started cultivating him in the late forties - inviting him to Texas as a houseguest, taking him on hunting expeditions. Edgar's relations with them were to go far beyond what was proper for a Director of the FBI. And although the Murchison milieu was infested with organized crime figures, Edgar considered him "one of my closest friends."

"Money," the millionaire used to say, "is like manure. If you spread it around, it does a lot of good." Murchison and his Texas friends spread a great deal of dollar manure on the political terrain.

They had traditionally been conservative supporters of the Democratic Party - until the presidency of Harry Truman. He enraged oil men by publicly denouncing their tax privileges, and by vetoing bills that would have brought them even greater wealth. Murchison habitually spelled Truman's name with a small t, to show how little he thought of him.

Murchison's political instincts were of the far, far Right. He was a fervent supporter of states' rights, reportedly funded the anti- Semitic press and was a primary source of money for the American Nazi Party and its leader, Lincoln Rockwell, who considered Edgar "our kind of people.'

During the Truman years, musing in private about the perfect political lineup, Edgar had named Murchison and Richardson as ideal candidates for high office - or at least as financial backers for politicians to his liking. Murchison had been obliging ever since. He threw money at Edgar's friend Joe McCarthy, placed airplanes at the Senator's disposal and promised him support "to the bitter end."

(2) Peter Dale Scott, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK (1993)

The Hunts and the Murchisons present the images of different versions of right-wing politics, with the Hunts allied to opponents of Washington, particularly when they were supporting southern resisters to integration, and the Murchisons playing their connections to Washington, Johnson, and Hoover, for all they were worth. Nelson Bunker Hunt was behind the hostile ad that confronted Kennedy in the November 22 edition of the Dallas Morning News.

(3) Joachim Joesten, How Kennedy Was Killed (1968)

When Chief Justice Warren and other members of the Commission on June 7, 1964, interviewed Ruby at the Dallas County jail. General Counsel Rankin told Ruby:

There was a story that you were sitting in your Carousel Club with Mr. (Bernard) Weissman, Officer Tippit, and another man who has been called a rich oil man, at one time shortly before the assassination. Can you tell us anything about that?'

To which Ruby replied with a counter-question: "Who was the rich oil man?"

After that, unbelievably, the subject was dropped. Apparently, Messrs. Warren and Rankin felt they were getting too warm. Ruby's reaction indicated that he was ready to talk since he had nothing to lose. But the Commission members weren't looking for the truth. They shied away from it, as from the plague. And so the topic was quickly shifted. Ruby never got a second chance to answer 'yes' or 'no' to the vitally important question of whether such a meeting was held. Yet his surprise reaction, which so put off Messrs. Warren and Rankin that they quickly changed the subject, indicates that the story of that meeting is true.

(4) Lee Israel, Kilgallen (1979)

Under the headline NEW DOROTHY KILGALLEN EXCLUSIVE - TALE OF "RICH OIL MAN" AT RUBY CLUB - Dorothy printed Mark's secret testimony. But his testimony implicated a trio at the Carousel: Ruby, Tippit, and Weissman.

Reexamining the transcript of Ruby's testimony before the commission, she noticed that the questions posed to him concerned not a trio, but a quartet. Earl Warren, in his questioning, informed Ruby that Lane had said: "In your Carousel Club you and Weisman (sic) and Tippit... and a rich oil man had an interview or conversation for an hour or two."

Dorothy, who did not have access yet to the complete Warren Report, had to deduce:

"The mention of the "rich oil man" by Chief Justice Warren would indicate then, that the Commission was informed of the meeting by a source other than Mr. Lane, and that this second source provided the name of a fourth party - the oil man. If that is not the case, if the Commission had only Mr. Lane's testimony to go on, it would appear that the oil man was "invented" by the investigators. And it is difficult to imagine the Commission doing any such thing.

The introduction of the rich oil man into the questioning effectively discombobulated the already-confused Jack Ruby.

When the report was released, it was clear that no testimony was given by any of the 552 witnesses about a rich oil man. Either there was a significant omission in the report of the Warren Commission, or the oil man was part of the unofficial corpus of information to which Warren was privy, or Dorothy's thesis - however "difficult to imagine" - was correct.

(5) Madeleine Brown, interviewed on the television programme, A Current Affair (24th February, 1992)

On Thursday night, Nov. 21, 1963, the last evening prior to Camelot's demise, I attended a social at Clint Murchison's home. It was my understanding that the event was scheduled as a tribute honoring his long time friend, J. Edgar Hoover (whom Murchison had first met decades earlier through President William Howard Taft), and his companion, Clyde Tolson. Val Imm, the society editor for the now-defunct Dallas Times Herald, unwittingly documented one of the most significant gatherings in American history. The impressive guest list included John McCloy, Richard Nixon, George Brown, R. L. Thornton, H. L. Hunt and a host of others from the 8F group. The jovial party was just breaking up when Lyndon made an unscheduled visit. I was the most surprised by his appearance since Jesse had not mentioned anything about Lyndon's coming to Clint's. With Lyndon's hectic schedule, I never dreamed he could attend the big party. After all, he had arrived in Dallas on Tuesday to attend the Pepsi-Cola convention. Tension filled the room upon his arrival. The group immediately went behind closed doors. A short time later Lyndon, anxious and red-faced, reappeared I knew how secretly Lyndon operated. Therefore I said nothing... not even that I was happy to see him. Squeezing my hand so hard, it felt crushed from the pressure, he spoke with a grating whisper, a quiet growl, into my ear, not a love message, but one I'll always remember: "After tomorrow those goddamn Kennedys will never embarrass me again - that's no threat - that's a promise."

(6) Gary Mack published an account of Madeleine Brown's story on 14th May, 1997.

Madeleine (Brown) has claimed over the years that she attended a party at Clint Murchison’s house the night before the assassination and LBJ, Hoover and Nixon were there. The party story, without LBJ, first came from Penn Jones in Forgive My Grief. In that version, the un-credited source was a black chauffeur whom Jones didn’t identify, and the explanation Jones gave was that it was the last chance to decide whether or not to kill JFK. Of course, Hoover used only top FBI agents for transportation and in the FBI of 1963, none were black. Actually, there is no confirmation for a party at Murchison’s. I asked Peter O’Donnell because Madeleine claimed he was there, too. Peter said there was no party. Madeleine even said there was a story about it in the Dallas Times Herald some months later (which makes no sense), but she had not been able to find it. Val Imm (Society Editor of the Dallas Times Herald) told Bob Porter (of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza staff) recently she had no memory of such an event and even looked through her notes - in vain.

Could LBJ have been at a Murchison party? No. LBJ was seen and photographed in the Houston Coliseum with JFK at a dinner and speech. They flew out around 10pm and arrived at Carswell (Air Force Base in northwest Fort Worth) at 11:07 Thursday night. Their motorcade to the Hotel Texas arrived about 11:50 and LBJ was again photographed. He stayed in the Will Rogers suite on the 13th floor and Manchester (William Manchester - author of The Death of a President) says he was up late. Could Nixon have been at Murchison’s party? No. Tony Zoppi (Entertainment Editor of The Dallas Morning News) and Don Safran (Entertainment Editor of the Dallas Times Herald) saw Nixon at the Empire Room at the Statler-Hilton. He walked in with Joan Crawford (Movie actress). Robert Clary (of Hogan’s Heroes fame) stopped his show to point them out, saying “. . . either you like him or you don’t.” Zoppi thought that was in poor taste, but Safran said Nixon laughed. Zoppi’s deadline was 11pm, so he stayed until 10:30 or 10:45 and Nixon was still there.

(7) Jennifer Floyd Engel, Harvey Bright, Star-Telegram (12th December, 2004)

The man who sold the Cowboys to Jerry Jones, thus precipitating the firing of coach Tom Landry, died Saturday.

Harvey R. "Bum" Bright died in Dallas after a long illness. He was 84 and had been under hospice care.

Bright, who was on the list of Texas' most wealthy individuals for decades, was the second owner of the Cowboys, as well as being a longtime and well-known benefactor of Texas A&M.

"He bled and died maroon," former Cowboys director of player personnel Gil Brandt said Saturday. "The Cowboys were something he did for the community, but his first love was Texas A&M."

Bright was chairman of the A&M Board of Regents in 1982, when he was responsible for hiring Jackie Sherrill as the Aggies' football coach, at the time making Sherrill the highest-paid coach in college football.

He bought the Cowboys from original owner Clint Murchison two years later and sold the team to Jones in 1989.

"When the Cowboys thing came up, he was so worried they were going elsewhere," said former Texas A&M football coach R.C. Slocum, a good friend of Bright's. "Buying the Cowboys was a business deal, but a big part of it was also keeping the Cowboys in Texas."

Slocum described Bright as being "an awesome man. He was a man's man."

To that end, before selling the Cowboys to Jones in 1989, Bright offered to tell Landry he was fired as the team's coach, so as not to leave that to Jones.

Bright was owner of the Cowboys for the final five seasons of Landry's coaching tenure, but the team's record had declined. Jones, upon buying the team, brought in Jimmy Johnson as coach and told Landry of that decision a day after the sale had been completed.

Jones was not available for comment Saturday, but the Cowboys released a statement.

"Mr. Bright was a great Texan and an important member of the Dallas Cowboys family," spokesman Rich Dalrymple said in the statement. "The thoughts and prayers of our organization will be with the Bright family in the days and weeks to come."

When reached at the Bright residence in Dallas, a family spokesman said family members would have no comment Saturday night.

Bright's association with the Cowboys began when Murchison began having financial and health problems in the early 1980s and asked general manager Tex Schramm to quietly find a buyer for the team.

In late 1983, Schramm was directed toward Bright, whose influence on A&M athletics and state politics was already visible. The sale was approved by NFL owners on March 19, 1984, and the deal was completed two months later.

Bright led a group of 11 investors, including Schramm, that paid $63 million for the team -- including the 30-acre tract of land in Valley Ranch where the team headquarters were relocated in 1985 -- and $20 million for the Texas Stadium lease.

At the time, Bright was the largest stockholder in Dallas' largest bank, RepublicBank. He had been chief fund-raiser in Republican Bill Clements' Texas gubernatorial campaigns.

Like Murchison, Bright assured Schramm he would be a hands-off owner, naming Schramm "designated managing partner" of the team.

In Bright's time as owner, the Cowboys had a 46-44 record, winning only one division title (1985) and no playoff games. In 1984, his first year with the team, Dallas missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 years and only the second time in 19 years.

After the Cowboys sank to 3-13 in 1988 and with Landry's coaching future regularly questioned, Bright -- whose financial clout had been diminished by a national crisis in the savings and loan market -- began searching for a buyer.

Jones emerged to buy the team and the stadium from Bright and his group for close to $150 million.

News of the sale broke on Feb. 23, 1989, and the bombshell was that Jones was bringing in former Arkansas teammate Jimmy Johnson as coach. Johnson had coached the University of Miami to a national championship.

That meant the end of an era. Landry would no longer be "the only coach the Cowboys have ever had."

Bright was born in Muskogee, Okla., in 1920. When his father saw the baby wrapped in blankets, he thought he looked like "a little railroad bum." The nickname stuck.

In high school, Bright played football at Highland Park. After a brief career in the oil fields as a "grunt," then as a roughneck, he enrolled at Texas A&M in 1939 and received his degree in petroleum engineering in 1943. He immediately was inducted into the Army and served in Europe during World War II. He left the Army as a captain in early 1946.

Bright remained close to A&M throughout his life. As chairman of the university's Board of Regents, he orchestrated a public search for a new football coach before Tom Wilson officially was fired after the 1981 season. That led to luring Sherrill away from the University of Pittsburgh.

Bright served as chairman of the Corps of Cadets Endowment Campaign at A&M. In 1997, he made an unrestricted endowment of $25 million to A&M, the largest gift of its type in the university's history at that point.

As recently as two years ago, Bright donated $5 million toward a capital campaign to improve facilities for A&M's athletes. That helped create the Bright Center.