Room Named For POW-Turned-Congressman Sam Johnson

B-318 in the Rayburn building is renamed in honor of Texas Republican

Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Meehan signs a photograph of Texas Rep. Sam Johnson as he enters the dedication ceremony. (Alex Gangitano/CQ Roll Call)
Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Meehan signs a photograph of Texas Rep. Sam Johnson as he enters the dedication ceremony. (Alex Gangitano/CQ Roll Call)
Posted November 15, 2016 at 11:45am

Rep. Sam Johnson’s legacy will permanently be a part of the House of Representatives.

Room B-318 in the Rayburn House Office Building has been named “The Sam Johnson Room” to honor the Texas Republican.

Johnson served for 29 years in the Air Force and was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for almost seven years — three and a half of them in solitary confinement.

“I don’t like things to be boring, that’s why I got into flying,” Johnson said at the dedication ceremony on Tuesday in the Longworth House Office Building. “Being on Ways and Means has given me the opportunity to fight for American’s freedoms on a variety of issues.”

Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas hosted a special reception for Johnson, the committee’s Social Security subcommittee chairman. (B-318 is the Ways and Means hearing room, used regularly for Social Security hearings.)

[Congressional Patriot Award Goes to Lewis, Johnson]

“What is remarkable about Sam’s story is he emerged with an even stronger desire to serve,” said Brady, who previously served in the Texas state Legislature with Johnson.

Sam Johnson is my hero,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said at the event. “Naming a room after him, it really doesn’t seem like enough, does it? I say he deserves a whole building.”

Ryan said that Brady jokes that “Sam Johnson is the loudest whisperer in Congress.”

Johnson said one of his proudest accomplishments on the committee is introducing the No Social Security for Nazis Act, which was signed into law in 2014. “That was one of the fastest bills I’ve ever seen signed into law,” he said to laughter.

His daughters were in attendance at the dedication, as well as Sen. John McCain of Arizona who was held in Vietnam with Johnson.

“He is always joyful, he was also optimistic and … we forged bonds of friendship that we will always carry with us and always cherish,” McCain said.

The senator said he communicated with Johnson during their period of solitary confinement by tapping on walls.

“What developed among us was a remarkable bond of friendship and love that are very difficult to describe because we depended on one another and we depended on the leadership from people like Sam Johnson … who inspired us to do things that otherwise we wouldn’t do,” McCain said.

Johnson served as temporary Ways and Means chairman while also keeping his subcommittee chairman post when Ryan moved up to the speakership and left the committee chairmanship open.

[Brady Set to Replace Ryan as Ways and Means Chairman]

“His service as acting chairman makes history,” Brady said.

Johnson was the most senior Republican on Ways and Means but did not seek the chairman post and Brady took over in November last year.

“It is our privilege to be a colleague to U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson,” said Michigan Rep. Sander Levin, the committee’s ranking Democrat. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also spoke at the ceremony.

Johnson first entered in Congress 1991, and has been on the Ways and Means Committee since 1995.

Guests entering the reception were faced with a photograph of Johnson printed on a poster board for people to sign, something many members did.

“You are an American hero and national treasure,” read a note signed by Texas GOP Rep. Pete Olson.

“I agree with Pete!” wrote former Texas Rep. Greg Laughlin.

Everyone else agreed with Pete, too.