Rayburn, Sam

Rayburn, Sam

(Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn), 1882–1961, U.S. legislator, b. Roane co., Tenn. After his family moved (1887) to Fannin co., Tex., he worked at cotton picking. He worked his way through school, studied law at the Univ. of Texas, and practiced in Bonham, Tex. He was (1907–12) a member of the Texas legislature and in 1913 entered the U.S. Congress. A middle-of-the-road Democrat, Rayburn soon became prominent in national politics. In the 1930s he was the man most directly responsible for the passage of New Deal legislation in the House. Rayburn held the office of speaker (1940–47; 1949–53; 1955–61) more than twice as long as any of his predecessors; his great political skill and his intimate knowledge of the House rules contributed to his unique prestige as a parliamentary leader.


See biographies by A. Champagne (1984), D. B. Hardemane and D. C. Bacon (1987); study by B. Mooney (1971).

Rayburn, (Samuel Taliaferro) Sam

(1882–1961) U.S. representative; born in Roane County, Tenn. A farm boy, he worked his way through Mayo Normal College and taught school while earning his law degree at night. A powerful Democrat in the Texas House (1906–12), he quickly rose to prominence in the U.S. House of Representatives (1913–61) on the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, aided by John Nance Gardner. A Southern populist, he sponsored New Deal legislation including the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 to regulate Wall Street. He took special pride in the Rural Electrification Act of 1936. Elected Speaker of the House (1940–61), he was politically more influential in Washington than in Texas, where oil men had assumed power. He supported Roosevelt's and Truman's foreign policies, but his and Senator Lyndon Johnson's policy of moderation and compromise during the 1950s ultimately alienated liberal Democrats, who backed John Kennedy in 1960. Rayburn aided President Kennedy's liberal legislative package by enlarging the House Rules Committee.