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Connally Goes From Auction to TV Thrift Commercials

February 3, 1988

HOUSTON (AP) _ Former Gov. John Connally, who last month auctioned off the possessions of a lifetime to put a dent in his multimillion-dollar debt, is now urging Texans to save in a series of advertisements for a savings and loan.

″We wanted ‘savings stories’ to be told by famous Texans who have faced some kind of adversity and yet are more committed than ever to Texas and to building a bright future here,″ said Dick Smith, executive vice president and creative director for the advertising agency handling the television commercials and full-page newspaper advertisements.

Connally, 70, appears alone in the 30-second TV spot, in which he looks into the camera and speaks of the life he built with his wife:

″Nellie and I worked hard all our lives to make sure our future would be financially secure.

″Well, the future is here and things haven’t quite worked out like we’d planned. But that’s all right, because there’s no better place than Texas to start over and to save a little something - because you never know what the future might bring.″

Dia Blair, account executive for Taylor, Brown & Barnhill, who is handling the $3 million campaign for University Savings Association, declined to say how much Connally was paid for the ads.

Connally and his wife, Nellie, last week completed a four-day auction of hundreds of possessions, many of them collected during his years as governor of Texas from 1963 to 1969, Navy secretary under President Kennedy and Treasury secretary under President Nixon.

The sale fetched nearly $2.7 million. Connally, who filed for bankruptcy protection in July, owes $41 million to $128 million in unsecured debts.

He at first declined to do the commercials, but agreed after meeting with advertising agents of University Savings Association. Ms. Blair said that once Connelly read the script, he ″pretty much considered it a public service announcement.″

The commercial is part of a capaign that began during Sunday’s Super Bowl. Other ads feature former Houston Oilers Coach Bum Phillips and Houston restaurateur Ninfa Laurenzo.

The TV spots will appear throughout the year in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, along with magazine and full-page newspaper advertisements.

″The message we wanted to get across is two-fold,″ said Doug Valdetero, executive vice president and chief savings officer for University Savings, the state’s fourth-largest thrift with 90 branches. ″One is the importance of saving your money and getting back to basics and putting a little aside for a rainy day or the future.

″Second is there’s been a lot of misfortunes in Texas with the oil and financial industry, but we’ve got a can-do attitude that we can start over.″

Remembered best for being wounded by the gunfire that killed Kennedy in 1963, Connally and his partner, former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, started their real estate and development ventures at the peak of the oil boom.

When the boom went bust, it took Connally, Barnes and others in tow. Barnes also has filed for bankruptcy protection.

Under bankruptcy laws, Connally is selling all properties except his house and 200 of the 3,400 acres at Picosa Ranch, his homestead in Floresville south of San Antonio. The law allows him to keep $30,000 in personal possessions.

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