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Sam Rayburn Museum hosts Open House celebration

BONHAM, TEXAS – October 9, 2007 – On October 9, 1957, Speaker Sam Rayburn gathered with hundreds of dignitaries and friends to open his new library in his hometown of Bonham. Fifty years later, the Sam Rayburn Museum, a division of The Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin, hosted an open house to honor one of the most outstanding Americans in the nation's history. The open house celebrated not only the fiftieth anniversary of the library's dedication, but also the completion of major components of the museum's restoration program. (view image gallery)

"We are very pleased and honored to recognize the achievements of Speaker Sam Rayburn and to rededicate this historic museum," said Don Carleton, executive director of The Center for American History. "The Sam Rayburn Museum was a dream come true for Speaker Rayburn, and we are proud that we can preserve his legacy for current and future generations of Americans."

"I think 'Mr. Sam' would be just as proud today as he was fifty years ago at the opening of the Sam Rayburn Museum," said Congressman Ralph Hall. "This great facility offers a wealth of information that historians and visitors can enjoy for generations to come, and I commend all those whose efforts and contributions helped preserve and improve the Library over the years. It is an honor for me to represent this same great district – the Fourth Congressional District – and to join all those gathered at the Sam Rayburn Library today."

Even with his busy schedule in Washington, D.C., Speaker Rayburn participated in every aspect of the building's design, construction and dedication. The museum is now recognized as a national historic landmark.

Harry Truman and Sam Rayburn speaking at the opening of the Sam Rayburn Library - DI_02868b

View video clips from the opening ceremony of the Sam Rayburn Museum and Library with Harry Truman and Sam Rayburn speaking, Bonham, Texas, 1957; (1 min. 45 sec.) DI_02868b.

"When Speaker Rayburn made his dedication speech on October 9, 1957, he told the audience that he wanted a 'building for the ages' for the people of his congressional district," stated Patrick Cox, Associate Director of The Center for American History. "He understood that communities need institutions that promote educational opportunities and encourage people to participate in civic affairs.  We are pleased that we have completed this phase of the renovations and hope to continue Speaker Rayburn's vision for the next fifty years," Cox added.

As part of the program, historic film footage from the 1957 dedication was shown, and an exhibit featuring historic images of the 1957 dedication and items related to the recent renovation project were unveiled. The exhibit remains on display until January 10, 2008.

Renovation accomplishments include a new roof and improved drainage system for the building, a more efficient heating and cooling system, upgraded accessibility to the museum, a thorough cleaning and resealing of the building exterior, and the restoration of the Sam Rayburn statue in the entry plaza. These improvements not only preserve this historic structure but also provide added protection for the valuable collections and artifacts housed in the Sam Rayburn Museum.

H. G. Dulaney, who served on Speaker Rayburn's staff in the 1950s, served as the library's director until his retirement in 2002. Dulaney noted, "The greatest honor anyone could have given me was when Mr. Rayburn asked me to be the director of his most precious possession, next to his home and family—the Sam Rayburn Library." Dulaney, who attended the opening ceremony in 1957, added, "The opening of the library was one of the happiest days of his life. It was a great day not only for the Speaker, but also for the citizens of Bonham and Fannin County."

Sam Rayburn held elective office for 55 consecutive years beginning in 1906 with his election to the Texas House of Representatives, where he served as Speaker of the House from 1910–1911. Voters elected him to Congress in 1912 and re-elected him 24 times to the U.S. House of Representatives (representing Texas' Fourth District). Rayburn spent 17 of those years as Speaker of the House, setting the record for length of service in the position. At the time of his death in 1961, Rayburn's 48 consecutive years in the U.S. House set a congressional record for continuous service.

The Sam Rayburn Papers are available for study at the Research and Collections Division in Austin with the Guide to the Sam Rayburn Papers available online.

For more information, contact:
Dr. Patrick Cox
(512) 788-0812

Related sites:
The Center for American History
The Sam Rayburn Museum
Guide to the Sam Rayburn Papers at the Center for American History