Historical Highlights

Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn of Texas

January 06, 1882
Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn of Texas Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Samuel Rayburn of Texas served 48 years in the House of Representatives.
Sam Rayburn of Texas, the longest serving Speaker in House history, was born in Kingston, Tennessee. Rayburn’s 17 years as Speaker—during the 76th through 78th, 81st through 82nd, and 84th to 87th Congresses (1940–1947, 1949–1953, and 1955–1961)—spanned a period from the eve of American intervention in World War II until the first year of the John F. Kennedy administration. Known affectionately as “Mr. Sam,” Rayburn was a House institution who exerted his influence through skillful persuasion and humor rather than arbitrary rule. He often brokered legislative initiatives among a group of autocratic and conflicting committee chairmen to whom much of the power in the House had devolved. Rayburn’s successful effort to expand the membership of the powerful House Rules Committee in 1961 prepared the way for consideration of major social legislation later in the decade. He died on November 16, 1961, in Bonham, Texas. At the time of his passing, Rayburn was the longest-serving Member in House history. In the public mind, his name had become synonymous with the House itself. The New York Times eulogized him as a man “regarded almost with awe in the House.” With his death, the editors concluded, “It is as though a part of the Capitol had fallen down.”

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