Sam Rayburn served as congressman during the administrations of eight presidents and participated in the passage of most of the significant legislation of the first half of the twentieth century. He became chairman of the powerful Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce in 1931 and House majority leader in 1937. Rayburn, as well as Vice President John Nance Garner, played a critical role in passing much of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.
In 1941 Rayburn became Speaker of the House of Representatives, a position he held for sixteen years, longer than any other individual in U.S. history. Except for two brief periods when the Republican Party controlled the House (1947–1948 and 1953–1955), Rayburn continued to serve as Speaker until his death in 1961.