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John Connally’s Belongings Draw More Than $380,000 First Night of Auction

January 23, 1988 GMT

HOUSTON (AP) _ Tears streaked the face of former Gov. John Connally at the opening of a bankruptcy auction where sales of his belongings fetched $22,500 for a ″fake″ painting and $500 for an ashtray.

About 1,200 bidders gave a standing ovation when the former U.S. treasury secretary and his wife, Nellie, arrived Friday.

About $450,000 was raised that night, and the auction continues today, Sunday and Tuesday.

″I want to maximize every dime for the benefit of the creditors. I think I owe them that,″ Connally said Friday night on ABC-TV’s ″Nightline.″

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Connally, 70, filed personal and business bankruptcy petitions in July. He listed liabilities of $93 million, although he says his debt now is about half that. The auctions are expected to raise between $1 million and $2 million.

Connally, who served as governor of Texas from 1963-69, shook several hands as he walked into Houston’s Hart Gallery and said he was pleased with the turnout.

As the bidding started, tears rolled down Connally’s face. But he quickly recovered and kept an unlighted cigar in his mouth as he watched the auction.

Jerry Moore, a Houston developer, said he paid $16,000 for Connally’s oak desk and a leather chair bearing the state seal because ″a great man had it.″

Moore said he plans to put the desk and several other office items in his car museum in north Houston.

Gallery owner and auctioneer Jerry Hart said some of Connally’s friends offered to buy certain cherished items and give them back as gifts.

Nearly 1,600 people paid $15 each to attend the sale, auction spokesman Clive Watson said.

Bidders, some clad in furs and others wearing cowboy hats, ate barbecue and drank wine throughout the night.

″It’s a crazy night, it’s the Super Bowl of auctions,″ said Harry Hanson, of Houston. ″It’s arousing all the good old Texas spirit. A lot of people with a lot of money are here tonight.″

A handmade, embossed leather and silver-mounted Western parade saddle was among the first items to be sold. Hub Fossier, a Houston car dealer, said he bought the saddle for his son-in-law, who runs an 800-acre ranch near San Antonio.

″I don’t even own a chicken, much less a horse. I wouldn’t have bought it if it wasn’t Connally’s,″ Fossier said.

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There were several bidders by telephone from New York, Philadelphia, Miami and Los Angeles.

A fake painting by Elmyr De Hory, a well-known forgery signed with the name of Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani, went for $22,500 to Houston businessman Lewis Lowenstein, Watson said. And Bud Adams, owner of the Houston Oilers football team, bought several items, including a painting of an Indian by Joseph Henry Sharp for $17,000.

Even an ashtray went for $500.

Each item will be accompanied by a letter signed by Connally verifying it had belonged to him.

Connally, Navy secretary in the Kennedy administration and Treasury secretary under President Nixon, started a real estate and development business with former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes at the peak of the oil boom.

When the boom went bust, it took Connally, Barnes and others in tow.

Under bankruptcy rules, 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.