Public Men in and out of Office

By J. T. Salter | Go to book overview

9
SAM RAYBURN "He First Tries Persuasion"

BY FLOYD M. RIDDICK

SAM RAYBURN AS SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTAtives is a powerful figure in shaping the destiny of our federal government. The renowned Thomas B. Reed, three times Speaker of the House, stated that the office "had but one superior and no peer." The power that the office commands, however, depends upon the personality of the incumbent as well as upon the prerogatives of the office. In Rayburn's case, a strong and unwavering personality has contributed to the making of an outstanding Speaker. As a self-made man, he has exercised that determined will to obtain his life's objective --the speakership. He always knows where he is headed and concentrates his energies to that end. As Speaker, he uses every prerogative at his command to carry out the scheduled legislative program. Speaker Rayburn does not hesitate to refuse recognition to a colleague if that refusal becomes necessary to enact the legislation prescribed by the Democratic leadership, nor does he question calling a representative to order if the decorum of the House is at stake. Sam Rayburn seldom indulges in debate and he hates oratory, but if his party's victory is at stake, he goes down into the well of the House and declaims to the majority membership. He tells it what to expect and what is expected of it.

Mr. Rayburn rose to power in the House in accordance with the seniority rule of that body, having served as a representative for twenty-seven years before becoming Speaker. However, he is the first chairman of the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce to become Speaker. From the

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