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Sam Rayburn

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"  . . . the nerves of the people . . . can be settled by telling people the truth about the progress of the war effort

because in production it has been marvelous and almost amazing"

Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn, 1882–1961.  Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Typed letter signed, Sam Rayburn, with holograph postscript, two pages, 8½"  x 11", on stationery of The Speakerʼs Rooms, House of Representatives U. S., Washington, D.C., June 7, 1943.

In this letter, written at the height of World War II, the powerful Rayburn, the longest-serving Speaker of the House of Representatives, comments on the “marvelous and almost amazing" production during World War II.  He writes to William H. Kittrell, a supporter from Texas whom President Franklin D Roosevelt had appointed as a member of the North African Economic Board.  In part:

I am more than glad to get a letter from you. I was wondering about you but felt all right about it since no adverse reports had come. Your work must be very interesting.

. . . . 

I called Ed Stettinius this morning.  He was out but I will get him on the ʼphone just as soon as I can and give him your message.

It is interesting to know how many Texas boys are around you. Be sure to give them all my regards, especially John Connally and George Wilson and any of the others with whom I am personally acquainted.

We are pulling for a summer recess—beginning about the 10th of July and extending over Labor Day.  This will give all of us a rest and also give all of the Members and opportunity to go home and not only explain what they have done but defend what they have done.  We have got a story that will settle the nerves of the people and their nerves can be settled by telling people the truth about the progress of the war effort because in production it has been marvelous and almost amazing.

I finally got to Austin to dedicate the portrait.  Lyndon [Johnson] and others will tell you that when I finally warmed the crowd up I had a splendid reception.

I also spoke at the Washington Day Dinner in Columbus, Ohio, where six hundred and thirty-nine paid $25.00 for a seat and I had a splendid reception.  I make the main speech at a similar dinner in New York City on June 21.

Let me say again how glad I am to hear from you and to tell you to take care of yourself.  I will look forward to seeing you back this way some of these days and you know the pleasure I will get out of a meeting.

With every good wish for you at all times, I am

Sincerely your friend, . . .

[In holograph]  Since dictating the above Ed Stettinius called me back and I gave him your message, which he was glad to have and said complementary things about you.

Rayburn mentions two Texans who went on to achieve great notoriety.  Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973), at the time a member of Congress, of course later became the 36th President of the United States.  John B. Connally, a Johnson protégé, served briefly as Secretary of the Navy under President John F. Kennedy in 1961 before he resigned to run for Governor of Texas.  A conservative Democrat, served as Governor from 1963 until 1969, when President Richard Nixon appointed him Secretary of the Treasury.  He was in the seat in front of President Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and was wounded in the assassination of the President.

Rayburn, a powerful Democrat from Bonham, Texas, was known as “Mr. Democrat" or “Mr. Sam,” he served in Congress from March 4, 1913, until his death on November 16, 1961.  He served as House majority leader 19371940 before first being elected Speaker in 1940.  He was Speaker three times, when the Democrats were in control, 19401947, 19491953, and 19551961.  During periods of Republican control, 19471949 and 19531955, he was the House minority leader.

The State Department established the North African Economic Board on December 19, 1942, to manage Allied economic intervention in French North Africa.  The Board was a blend of civil and military authority that operated in areas under the jurisdiction of the Allied Force Headquarters Algiers.  Among its activities was the distribution of Lend-Lease supplies.  Edward Stettinius, Jr., whom Roosevelt later appointed Secretary of State, was the administrator of the Office of Lend-Lease Administration at the time Rayburn wrote this letter.

William H. Kittrell (1894–1966) was long active in Democratic party politics.  He served as secretary of the Texas delegation to the 1932 Democratic convention that nominated Franklin D. Roosevelt and later managed Rooseveltʼs reelection campaign in the Dallas area in 1940.  Roosevelt appointed him to the NAEB.  Kittrell supported Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson against Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952, and under President Kennedy he served as a consultant to the Office of Emergency Planning.  

Rayburn has signed this letter and added the postscript by hand in gray-blue fountain pen.  The handwriting and signature are large and bold.  The letter has two normal mailing folds, and there is light toning to an area of the first page.  Overall the letter is in fine condition, and but for the toning it would be very fine.


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