Sherman, TX – Historians, students, teachers and people from the community gathered at Austin College today to discuss the life and legacy of Sam Rayburn and his impact on Texas politics. And even though it’s been almost 50 years since he represented Texas District 4, his presence is still very much a part of this area.
"Rayburn was an individual in many respects a trendsetter politically for national politics at the same time he represented this district with a caring concern,” said Light Townsend Cummins, State Historian of Texas and Professor of History at Austin College.
Austin College hosted a symposium today from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. centered around discussing the Rayburn era of politics, and why it is so vital to our history.
"We take it for granted, you know we hear Sam Rayburn's name but to really learn who he was and what he did not just for people around here, but all over the state and all over the country to come here and tell us he was important and what he did is really fascinating and great for the students,” said Casey Titus, a graduate student and history major.
The panels discussed Rayburn's well known integrity and fairness. He would never accept any money from lobbyists and even paid for his own travel expenses; the most notable when he paid his own way to inspect the Panama Canal.
And all of these facts made for an interesting discussion, that appealed to more than just students.
"We've had some wonderful historians speak, and I've just enjoyed it very much and I've been looking forward to this because any time I can go hear about Mr. Rayburn and study about him I'm interested,” said Gary Gibbs, a pastor in Van Alstyne.
And while many students like Casey Titus are too young to remember the Rayburn era, historians say they need to understand the lasting role he played in the Texas we see today.
"The teaching of history involves the teaching young people on what came before them, for this area that is an essential ingredient to understand Sam Rayburn,” said Cummins.
Historians say Rayburn was always close to his constituents here Texas. And he made many improvements in his district by building farm-to-market roads, Lake Texoma and connecting rural areas to electricity, just to name a few.
And for a young history buff like Casey, the symposium proved to be a day well spent learning about this local politician.
"It's been very interesting, very informative, I think everyone involved, not just the students, but members of the community that have come, the faculty as well, it's just a really fun way to learn about this man,” said Titus.
The symposium included panel discussions and the U.S. House of Representatives Deputy Historian Fred Beuttler as the key note speaker. If you missed tonight's event, there's the Sam Rayburn Library and Museum, as well as the Sam Rayburn House in Bonham for those interested in finding out more about him.