Historical Highlights

The Speaker election of Sam Rayburn of Texas

September 16, 1940
The Speaker election of Sam Rayburn of Texas Home of Speaker Sam Rayburn Postcard, Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives Sam Rayburn's house became a local landmark following his election to the Speakership.
On this date the House of Representatives selected Sam Rayburn of Texas to serve as Speaker of the House in the 76th Congress (1939–1941). First elected to the House in 1912, Rayburn rose up through the Democratic ranks to serve as Majority and Minority Leader as well as chairman of the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce. As the result of the death of Speaker William Bankhead of Alabama, Representative John McCormack of Massachusetts introduced House Resolution 602 to name the Texas Congressman Speaker of the House. With no objection or fanfare, the House agreed to the resolution and Rayburn received the oath of office. Without any remarks from the new Speaker, the House continued its business and presented memorials about Mr. Bankhead. Rayburn served as Speaker for 10 non-consecutive Congresses with his service being interrupted by changes in the House majority in the 80th (1947–1949) and 83rd (1953–1955) Congresses. Late in his career Rayburn remarked, “the House of Representatives has been my life and it has been my love. I never had any ambition to be a governor or a senator. I wanted to come to this body and stay here as long as my people wanted me.” He continued, “They have been as kind and fine to me as you have been.”

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