The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987 Page: 374
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
14 percent black, race was not the overpowering issue there that it was
in much of the South.' Thus, although Rayburn was a southerner and
friendly with southern House leaders, who represented the conser-
vative wing of the Democratic party, he never wore the label of an ultra-
racist. As a leadership candidate, he could therefore be attractive to
congressmen from northern urban states. Rayburn had also attained
the reputation of being a strong New Dealer, and there were subtle sig-
nals from the Roosevelt administration that Sam Rayburn was the ad-
ministration's choice. Finally, Rayburn's personality was a more conge-
nial and cooperative one than that of his major opponent, John J.
O'Connor of New York, and the appeal of Rayburn's personality to the
House members cannot be overlooked. This article describes how Ray-
burn was able to attain the leadership in 1937 and concludes by sug-
gesting the key variables that explain his victory.
John Nance Garner became Speaker in 1931 when the Democrats re-
gained control of the House. In 1933 he relinquished that office for the
vice-presidency. Rayburn, one of Garner's lieutenants in the House,
hoped to follow Garner as Speaker, but election to the chair proved
elusive. While seniority gave him the chairmanship of the House In-
terstate and Foreign Commerce Committee, the speakership was not
based on seniority. Instead, one became Speaker by getting the votes of
a majority of members of the majority party in the House.
Rayburn had not only been a Garner lieutenant, he had managed
Garner's presidential campaign, been his floor leader at the 1932 Demo-
cratic convention, and had been a leader in his vice-presidential cam-
paign.2 Garner had concluded, however, that Texas could not expect to
have the speakership along with the vice-presidency and the chair-
manship of a number of major House committees. He therefore backed
another lieutenant of his for the Speaker's race, John McDuffie of Ala-
bama. McDuffie had served as Democratic whip and had been Garner's
choice for majority leader in 1931, when Henry T. Rainey of Illinois
was elected by the caucus.' In July, 1932, William Bankhead of Ala-
bama solicited Rayburn's vote for the speakership, but Rayburn at that
'Anthony Champagne, Congressman Sam Rayburn (New Brunswick, 1984), 6, 11-13.
2Alfred Steinberg, Sam Rayburn: A Bzography (New York, 1975), 1o6. Lionel V. Patenaude de-
scribes the closeness of the Garner-Rayburn relationship in Texans, Politics and the New Deal
(New York, 1983), 52-63.
3Steinberg, Sam Rayburn, 1o6. McDuffie was close to both Rayburn and Garner. He was a key
member of a small strategy-planning group upon which Speaker Garner had relied. See
Edward Ola Daniel, "Sam Rayburn: Trials of a Party Man" (Ph.D. diss., North Texas State Uni-
versity, 1979), 17. One reason for Rainey's being chosen as majority leader was that he was from
Illinois and he offered some regional balance to a Texan Speaker and a large number of south-
ern committee chairmen. Walter Judson Heacock, "William Brockman Bankhead: A Biog-
raphy" (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, 1952), 163-164.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987, periodical, 1986/1987; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117152/m1/440/: accessed July 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.