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Mr. Speaker

Ben Barnes

Sound | c. 1965

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TAMI Tags
  •  Ben Barnes 
  •  Pat Neff 
  •  Speaker Sam Rayburn 
  •  Speaker Coke Stevenson 
  •  Speaker Robert W. Calvert 
  •  Speaker Price Daniel 
  •  Speaker Waggoner Carr 
  •  Speaker Byron Tunnell 
  •  Texas State Capital 
  •  Ben Barnes talks about being Speaker of the House 
  •  Ben Barnes and family: wife Martha, son Greg, and daughter Amy 
  •  Lt. Governor Preston Smith 
  •  Greg Barnes' report card 
  •  Governor John Connally 
 
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Mr. Speaker provides an unique look at a day in the life of Ben Barnes during his tenure as House speaker during the 59th Legislature.

Born in 1938 in Gorman, Ben Barnes won a seat to the Texas House of Representatives while still a student at University of Texas Austin. In 1965, at the age of 26, Barnes was elected the youngest House speaker in state history. During his time as speaker, he prioritized the financial needs of the state's colleges and universities, helped pass legislation enforcing a minimum wage for farm laborers, and played a significant role in the passage of clean air and water legislation.

Texas congressmen and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Sam Rayburn, was born in Roane County, Tennessee on January 6, 1882. In 1887 the Rayburn family moved from Tennessee to a cotton farm near Windom, Texas. After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from East Texas Normal College (now Texas A&M University–Commerce), he taught school for two years then left to pursue a career in law. In 1906, Rayburn won a seat in the Texas House of Representatives and attended law school at the University of Texas between legislative sessions. He served in the state legislature for two more terms, serving as Speaker in 1910. 
 
In 1912, Rayburn was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Democrat from the Fourth Texas District. He had no Republican opponent during his congressional career and maintained one of the longest records of service in the house at 48 years. Congressman Rayburn was elected Speaker of the House in 1940 and continued as Speaker in every Democratically controlled Congress from 1940-1961, serving as minority-leader during the two Republican periods. During his congressional career, Rayburn participated in the passage of some of the most influential legislation and was a leading supporter of the New Deal. The Congressman passed the Truth in Securities Act, The Rural Electrification Act, the Public Utilities Holding Act, and the Emergency Railroad Transportation Act while chairman of the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee from 1931 to 1937. Rayburn worked closely with Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson during the Eisenhower administration, supporting LBJ in his campaign for the presidency and later vice-presidency. 
 
Respected by Republicans and Democrats alike, Rayburn’s personal integrity was legendary. The Congressman refused money from lobbyists and was effective in dealing with his constituents. Rayburn’s efforts brought farm-to-market roads, Lake Texoma, Lavon Lake, The Veteran Administrative Hospital in McKinney, and Perrin Field Sir Force Base to Texas’s fourth district. In 1949 Rayburn was awarded the Collier’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Nation, and the $10,000 award served as the basis for establishing the Sam Rayburn Library at Bonham. The library was dedicated by former President Truman in 1957 and housed Rayburn’s public and private papers until they were moved to the University of Texas. Sam Rayburn died of cancer in 1961 and is buried in Bonham.