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Sam Rayburn Museum - Biography

Rayburn and members of the Texas Delegation at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, August 13, 1956“ DI00495

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Title: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Sam

Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn was born on January 6, 1882, in a rural area of Roane County, Tennessee. At age five, Rayburn, along with his parents and nine siblings, moved to a forty-acre cotton farm in Flag Springs, Texas. One more child was born after the move to Texas, and every member of the family had to do their share to make the farm profitable. Rayburn's interest in government coincided with the family's move, and it has been suggested that his curiosity intensified due to the "great golden age of Texas politics." As he worked the cotton fields, Rayburn imagined himself making numerous political speeches and engaging in debates with current political leaders. Later in his life, Rayburn recalled that it was during one of these flights of imagination that he decided he would pursue a career in law and politics. Although he was quite young, only eight years old, Rayburn remembers, "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." Rayburn received his bachelor's degree in 1903 from East Texas Normal College (now Texas A&M University–Commerce). During his term of service in the Texas House of Representatives, Sam Rayburn attended classes at the University of Texas at Austin and in 1908 passed the Texas bar examination. In 1942, Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania conferred the first of eight Doctor of Laws degrees awarded to Rayburn.

Rayburn in Office (1906-1961)
In 1906, Sam Rayburn won a seat in the Texas House of Representatives, where he served as Representative of the 9th District. He was re-elected for two more terms, and in 1912, during his third term in the Texas House, he was elected Speaker of the House. That same year, he was elected to serve as a Democratic Representative to the United States House of Representatives. This election began a forty-eight year career of continuous service in Washington, D. C. Between 1931 and 1937, he served as chairman of the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee. Sam Rayburn supported the majority of New Deal legislation proposed by the Roosevelt administration from 1933 to 1936. As chairman, Rayburn was instrumental in the passage of the Truth in Securities Act, which established the Securities and Exchange Commission. Rayburn participated in the creation of the Federal Communications Commission, as well as the passage of the Public Utilities Holding Company Act, and the Emergency Railroad Transportation Act. Of particular importance to Rayburn was his work with Senator George W. Norris in sponsoring the Rural Electrification Act. The REA was designed to benefit largely rural areas populated primarily by farms by providing funding and organization of electric cooperatives in these areas. Rayburn's own experience coming from a rural area and working a farm without electricity offered him a personal understanding how the passage of the REA could improve rural communities.

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