Sam Rayburn

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Sam Rayburn

Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn (6 January 1882 – 16 November 1961) was an American politician who served as the 43rd speaker of the United States House of Representatives. He was a three-time House speaker, former House majority leader, two-time House minority leader, and a 24-term congressman, representing Texas's 4th congressional district as a Democrat from 1913 to 1961. He holds the record for the longest tenure as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, serving for over 17 years (among his three separate stints).


  • It has always been my ambition since childhood to live such a life that one day my fellow citizens would call me to membership in this popular branch of the greatest lawmaking body in the world. Out of their confidence and partiality they have done this. It is now my sole purpose here to help enact such wise and just laws that our common country will by virtue of these laws be a happier and a more prosperous country. I have always dreamed of a country which I believe this should be and will be, and that is one in which the citizenship is an educated and patriotic people, not swayed by passion and prejudice, and a country that shall know no East, no West, no North, no South, but inhabited by a people liberty loving, patriotic, happy, and prosperous, with its lawmakers having no other purpose than to write such just laws as shall in the years to come be of service to human kind yet unborn.
    • Maiden speech in the House (May 6, 1913); reported in Congressional Record, vol. 50, p. 1249.
  • In my many years as a Representative in Congress it is my observation that the district that is best represented is the district that is wise enough to select a man of energy, intelligence, and integrity and reelects him year after year. A man of this type and character serves more efficiently and effectively the longer he is returned by his people.
    • On the weekly radio broadcast, "Texas Forum of the Air" (November 1, 1942); reported in Congressional Record (November 2, 1942), vol. 88, Appendix, p. A3866.
  • Too many critics mistake the deliberations of the Congress for its decisions.
    • On the weekly radio broadcast, "Texas Forum of the Air" (November 1, 1942); reported in Congressional Record (November 2, 1942), vol. 88, Appendix, p. A3866.
  • A jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a carpenter to build one.
    • Said during filmed conversation with reporters (c. 1953); reported in "Speak, Mister Speaker" (1978), p. 138.
  • You cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you, unless you know how to follow, too
    • Reported in The Leadership of Speaker Sam Rayburn, Collected Tributes of His Congressional Colleagues (1961), p. 34; House Doc. 87–247.
  • You'll never get mixed up if you simply tell the truth. Then you don't have to remember what you have said, and you never forget what you have said.
    • W. B. Ragsdale, "An Old Friend Writes of Rayburn", in U.S. News & World Report (October 23, 1961), p. 72.
  • Don't try to go too fast. Learn your job. Don't ever talk until you know what you're talking about... If you want to get along, go along.
    • Reported in Neil MacNeil, Forge of Democracy, the House of Representatives (1963), p. 129.
  • Well, Lyndon, you may be right and they may be every bit as intelligent as you say, but I'd feel a whole lot better about them if just one of them had run for sheriff once.
    • To Lyndon Johnson, regarding Johnson's attendance at his first Cabinet meeting (under Kennedy); reported in David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest (1972), Introduction.
  • Remember the folks back home
    • To a joint session of Congress, regarding a representative's political agenda.
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