Sam Rayburn Museum - Biography Page 3
Known by most as "Mr. Democrat," Sam Rayburn was permanent chairman of the national Democratic convention in 1948, 1952, and 1956 and was named Honorary Chairman in 1960. Throughout his political career, Rayburn was known for his ability to balance his strong Democratic partisanship with his unwavering sense of dedication to meeting the needs of the American people. Despite the status the Speaker was able to achieve in Washington, he was still known as "informal" and a "down home kind of guy" who returned to his home in Bonham as soon as Congress adjourned for the session. When home, Rayburn would meet with his constituents concerning their needs, maintaining that his obligation to the people was not finished. Once the museum opened, the Speaker utilized the replica office as a meeting place.
The period between 1957 and 1961, the time Rayburn used the Rayburn Museum office, saw several significant achievements in American government. In 1957, Congress voted on the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the first Civil Rights legislation since Reconstruction. Another Civil Rights Act was passed in 1960. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established to provide civilian control over the nation's space program. Alaska and Hawaii were admitted as the 49th and 50th states in the United States. In 1958 the National Defense Education Act provided the first significant federal contribution to public education since Reconstruction. Also in 1958 was the passage of the Hospital Survey and Construction Act, the first legislation which provided federal grants for construction of hospitals and healthcare facilities.
Sam Rayburn accomplished much in his lifetime by the fulfillment of his dream to be a politician, and he is a source of pride for those all over northeast Texas. Rayburn passed away in Bonham on November 16, 1961, and was buried at the Willow Wild Cemetery, a few blocks from the Rayburn Museum, on November 18. Rayburn's remains laid in state in the museum building for twenty-four hours. Thousands of mourners, from school children to national officials, filed silently past his bronze coffin in tribute to his service and dedication. The Texas Department of Public Safety estimated 15,000 people filled the streets on the day of Rayburn's funeral. President John Kennedy, former Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman, and future President Lyndon Johnson attended the funeral services. The entire Texas Congressional delegation and 105 members of Congress attended the services and many came to the museum. Network television provided live coverage of the funeral service from the First Baptist Church in Bonham.