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Sam Rayburn

From Academic Kids

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Portrait of Sam Rayburn

Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn (6 January 188216 November 1961) was a United States politician from Texas. He served as the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives for many years, and he is widely regarded as the most effective Speaker of the House in American history.

He was born in Roane County, Tennessee, and graduated from Mayo College (now Texas A&M University-Commerce), at Commerce, Texas. After a year teaching school, he won election to the Texas State Legislature. During his third two-year term in the Legislature, he was elected Speaker of the House at the age of 29. The next year, he won election to the United States House of Representatives in District 4. He went to Congress on 4 March 1913 at the beginning of Woodrow Wilson's administration and served without interruption for over 48 years. During this entire time, he never faced a Republican or other serious challenger for reelection. On 16 September 1940, at the age of 58, he became Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. When his career as Speaker was interrupted during the sessions of 1947-1948 and 1953-1954 during Republican control of the House, Rayburn served as minority leader. He usually worked quietly in the background in the shaping of legislation. As Speaker, he won a reputation for being fair in his rulings and for forgetting politics when he handled the gavel. He had served as Speaker more than twice as long as any predecessor when he died of cancer in Bonham, Texas. His record has not yet been broken. Rayburn was legendary for his honesty and integrity. He despised lobbyists and wouldn't accept anything from them. He would only say "I am not for sale" and walk away. In his years in Congress, Rayburn always insisted on paying his own expenses. When he died, his personal savings only totalled $10,000.

Rayburn grew up in abject poverty, and would champion the interests of the poor once in office. He was a close friend of Lyndon B. Johnson, and was instrumental in LBJ's ascent to power, particularly his unusually rapid rise to the position of Senate Minority Leader after only four years in that body, and his subsequent elevation to Majority Leader once the Democrats regained control of Congress. In fact, Rayburn knew Johnson's father, Sam Ealy Johnson, from their days in the Texas State Legislature.

Rayburn, though a menacing and powerful presence on the House floor, was incredibly shy outside of work. He had married once, but the marriage ended quickly and no one ever knew why. One of his greatest, most painful regrets was that he did not have son, that he did not have, as he put it in Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon B. Johnson, "a towheaded boy to take fishing."

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Sam Rayburn

The ballistic missile submarine USS Sam Rayburn (SSBN-635) was named in his honor, as was the Rayburn House Office Building, a building of offices for Representatives next to the United States Capitol. The Sam Rayburn Reservoir in East Texas was named after him in 1963.

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Preceded by:
William B. Bankhead
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
September 16, 1940January 3, 1943;
January 6, 1943January 3, 1947
Succeeded by:
Joseph W. Martin, Jr.
Preceded by:
Joseph W. Martin, Jr.
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
January 3, 1949January 3, 1953
Succeeded by:
Joseph W. Martin, Jr.
Preceded by:
Joseph W. Martin, Jr.
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
January 5, 1955January 3, 1959;
January 7, 1959November 16, 1961
Succeeded by:
John W. McCormack

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