Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn (6 January 1882 - 16 November 1961) was born in Roane County, Tennessee, and graduated from Mayo College (now East Texas State University), at Commerce, Texas. After a year teaching school, he won election to the State Legislature. During his third two-year term in the Legislature, he was elected Speaker of the House at the age of 29. The next year, he won election to the United States House of Representatives. He went to Congress on 4 March 1913 at the beginning of Woodrow Wilson's administration and served without interruption for over 48 years. On 16 September 1940, at the age of 58, he became Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. When his career as Speaker was interrupted during the sessions of 1947-1948 and 1953-1954 during Republican control of the House, Rayburn served as minority leader. He usually worked quietly in the background in the shaping of legislation. As Speaker, he won a reputation for being fair in his rulings and for forgetting politics when he handled the gavel. He had served as Speaker more than twice as long as any predecessor when he died of cancer in Bonham, Texas.
Rayburn grew up in abject poverty, and would champion the interests of the poor once in office. He was legendary for his integrity and toughness. He was a close friend of Lyndon B. Johnson, and was instrumental in LBJ's ascent to power. In fact, Rayburn knew Johnson's father, Sam Ealy Johnson, from their days in the Texas State Legislature.
The ballistic missile submarine USS Sam Rayburn (SSBN-635) was named in his honor.