Sam Rayburn’s Library | TheFencePost.com

Sam Rayburn’s Library

Candy Moulton
Encampment, Wyo.

A statue of Sam Rayburn stands in front of the Rayburn Library in Bonham, Texas.

I drove into Bonham, Texas, in the middle of the night so I missed seeing the impressive façade of the Sam Rayburn Library and Museum upon my entry to this small city. Located at the edge of town, the facility is certainly a standout with its four columns and a heroic sculpture of “Mr. Sam” out front. Rayburn established the library and museum in 1957 as a tribute to the people of Fannin County, Texas. At the dedication he told the people he wanted a library where the people can “freely read.”

Rayburn is a legend not only in this area of Texas, but in the United States. A Democrat, Rayburn served as congressman during the administrations of eight presidents and was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives for more than 17 years – longer than anyone else in history.

He took part in passing some of the most significant legislation of the first half of the 20th century and along with Vice President John Nance Garner, played a critical role in passing much of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

In 1941 Rayburn became Speaker of the House of Representatives. He served in that capacity until his death in 1961 with the exception of two brief periods when the Republican Party controlled the House (1947-1948 and 1953-1955).

The Rayburn Library grew out of an award to Mr. Sam in 1949 by Collier’s Magazine, which gave him $10,000 for distinguished service to the nation. He established an endowment and with additional gifts was able to build and operate the library and museum. The construction started in 1955 with the facility dedicated in 1957. It initially operated under the auspices of the Rayburn Foundation, but since 1991 has been under management of the University of Texas at Austin. It is one division of UT-Austin’s Center for American History.

It exhibits photographs, original letters, political artifacts and personal memorabilia relating to important events in the life and times of Sam Rayburn. The research library has Rayburn’s personal collection, including a full set of the Congressional Record (the largest collection of its kind anywhere outside Washington, D.C.).

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Among the hundreds of titles are works by the nation’s Founding Fathers: Adams, Jefferson, Washington and their associates. Rayburn was a voracious reader and did not just peruse, but actually read virtually all of the books in the library. Upon reading a title, he would sign his name in each, on the same page number of every book. In addition to the research library, the museum centerpiece is a replica of the formal office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Rayburn worked in this office when he was in Texas. It is now viewed from one of two doors, giving visitors a glimpse into the style of the office during Rayburn’s tenure.

A number of artifacts are on display, including a collection of gavels Mr. Sam used while managing the House of Representatives.

The Library and Museum is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. Planning is underway now to create some upgraded exhibits to further tell the story of Mr. Speaker.

Rayburn was born on January 6, 1882, in a rural area of Roane County, Tenn., but relocated to Flag Springs, Texas, along with his family when he was 5-years-old. He would spend time in the cotton fields, imagining himself making political speeches or engaging in debates with political leaders. At the time he was only 8-years-old but later said that is when he decided to go into politics. He would say, “After I made that decision, it was settled. I never worried a minute after that about what I ought to do or was going to do.” He went on to earn a college degree in 1903 from East Texas Normal College (now Texas A&M University-Commerce), and began a term in the Texas House of Representatives, Sam Rayburn attended classes at the University of Texas at Austin, subsequently passing the Texas bar examination.

Rayburn served three terms in the Texas House of Representatives, where he was elected Speaker of the House. But then he was elected to serve as a Democratic Representative to the United States House of Representatives, beginning a 48 year career of continuous service in Washington, D.C. Among the important legislation he had a role in passing was the Truth in Securities Act, which established the Securities and Exchange Commission, the creation of the Federal Communications Commission, passage of the Public Utilities Holding Company Act, the Emergency Railroad Transportation Act, and the Rural Electrification Act. Coming from a rural area and having grown up on a farm without electricity gave Rayburn personal understanding of the need for the REA, which provided funding and organization of electric cooperatives.

In all he served with eight presidents, and helped to pass several other pieces of key legislation throughout his career, including the extension of the Selective Service Act in 1941.

He was later involved in passage of the Civil Rights Act, the first Civil Rights legislation since Reconstruction. And in approving legislation that established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which provides civilian control over the nation’s space program. He was among the congressmen who voted to bring in Alaska and Hawaii as the 49th and 50th states in the United States.

Sam Rayburn passed away in Bonham on November 16, 1961.

I drove into Bonham, Texas, in the middle of the night so I missed seeing the impressive façade of the Sam Rayburn Library and Museum upon my entry to this small city. Located at the edge of town, the facility is certainly a standout with its four columns and a heroic sculpture of “Mr. Sam” out front. Rayburn established the library and museum in 1957 as a tribute to the people of Fannin County, Texas. At the dedication he told the people he wanted a library where the people can “freely read.”

Rayburn is a legend not only in this area of Texas, but in the United States. A Democrat, Rayburn served as congressman during the administrations of eight presidents and was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives for more than 17 years – longer than anyone else in history.

He took part in passing some of the most significant legislation of the first half of the 20th century and along with Vice President John Nance Garner, played a critical role in passing much of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

In 1941 Rayburn became Speaker of the House of Representatives. He served in that capacity until his death in 1961 with the exception of two brief periods when the Republican Party controlled the House (1947-1948 and 1953-1955).

The Rayburn Library grew out of an award to Mr. Sam in 1949 by Collier’s Magazine, which gave him $10,000 for distinguished service to the nation. He established an endowment and with additional gifts was able to build and operate the library and museum. The construction started in 1955 with the facility dedicated in 1957. It initially operated under the auspices of the Rayburn Foundation, but since 1991 has been under management of the University of Texas at Austin. It is one division of UT-Austin’s Center for American History.

It exhibits photographs, original letters, political artifacts and personal memorabilia relating to important events in the life and times of Sam Rayburn. The research library has Rayburn’s personal collection, including a full set of the Congressional Record (the largest collection of its kind anywhere outside Washington, D.C.).

Among the hundreds of titles are works by the nation’s Founding Fathers: Adams, Jefferson, Washington and their associates. Rayburn was a voracious reader and did not just peruse, but actually read virtually all of the books in the library. Upon reading a title, he would sign his name in each, on the same page number of every book. In addition to the research library, the museum centerpiece is a replica of the formal office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Rayburn worked in this office when he was in Texas. It is now viewed from one of two doors, giving visitors a glimpse into the style of the office during Rayburn’s tenure.

A number of artifacts are on display, including a collection of gavels Mr. Sam used while managing the House of Representatives.

The Library and Museum is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. Planning is underway now to create some upgraded exhibits to further tell the story of Mr. Speaker.

Rayburn was born on January 6, 1882, in a rural area of Roane County, Tenn., but relocated to Flag Springs, Texas, along with his family when he was 5-years-old. He would spend time in the cotton fields, imagining himself making political speeches or engaging in debates with political leaders. At the time he was only 8-years-old but later said that is when he decided to go into politics. He would say, “After I made that decision, it was settled. I never worried a minute after that about what I ought to do or was going to do.” He went on to earn a college degree in 1903 from East Texas Normal College (now Texas A&M University-Commerce), and began a term in the Texas House of Representatives, Sam Rayburn attended classes at the University of Texas at Austin, subsequently passing the Texas bar examination.

Rayburn served three terms in the Texas House of Representatives, where he was elected Speaker of the House. But then he was elected to serve as a Democratic Representative to the United States House of Representatives, beginning a 48 year career of continuous service in Washington, D.C. Among the important legislation he had a role in passing was the Truth in Securities Act, which established the Securities and Exchange Commission, the creation of the Federal Communications Commission, passage of the Public Utilities Holding Company Act, the Emergency Railroad Transportation Act, and the Rural Electrification Act. Coming from a rural area and having grown up on a farm without electricity gave Rayburn personal understanding of the need for the REA, which provided funding and organization of electric cooperatives.

In all he served with eight presidents, and helped to pass several other pieces of key legislation throughout his career, including the extension of the Selective Service Act in 1941.

He was later involved in passage of the Civil Rights Act, the first Civil Rights legislation since Reconstruction. And in approving legislation that established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which provides civilian control over the nation’s space program. He was among the congressmen who voted to bring in Alaska and Hawaii as the 49th and 50th states in the United States.

Sam Rayburn passed away in Bonham on November 16, 1961.