Veteran and Congressman Sam Johnson ’51

Congressman Sam Johnson in Washington D.C.

Sam Johnson (’51) served 29 years as an Air Force pilot before representing Texas 3rd District in the United States House of Representatives from 1991 to 2019. Johnson grew up in Dallas, and joined the ROTC while he was a student at SMU. After serving multiple combat tours in the Korean War and the Vietnam War, Johnson’s plane was shot down in Vietnam on April 16, 1966. He was captured and spent 7 years as a prisoner of war, including 42 months of solitary confinement at “Hanoi Hilton.” Johnson later detailed his experiences in his 1992 memoir, Captive Warriors.

In 1973 Johnson was released and returned to the United States, where he resumed his military career until he retired as Colonel Sam Johnson in 1979. Sam Johnson continued his life of service as a member of the Texas State House of Representatives from 1985 to 1991, before he ran for Congress. Johnson was known as a conservative Republican, and served on the Committee on Ways and Means, and the Joint Committee on Taxation. During his long career in the U.S. House of Representatives, Johnson supported many initiatives for veterans including the federal charter for the Korean War Veterans Association (2008), Korean War Veterans Association Sam Johnson Chapter 270, and the Plano VA Outpatient Clinic.

George W. Bush letter to Sam Johnson, 2003

DeGolyer Library received Congressman Sam Johnson’s papers in 2018, with additional materials added in 2022 and 2023. The collection was divided into congressional papers, and personal papers that preceded his congressional career.  Highlights of his collection include photographs of Texas and Washington D.C. events, campaign literature, newsletters to constituents, video, numerous military medals and the Congressional Patriot Award he shared with fellow Congressman John Lewis.

Selections from Congressman Sam Johnson’s records will be made available online in the future. Two videos recently added to DeGolyer’s digital collection include an outdoor press conference regarding the spy Joel Barr in 1991, and an interview with Bob and Katie McKinney of the Dallas chapter of the Citizens Against Government Waste in 1991 for Johnson’s cable television show. These videos were digitized by the staff of the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection.

Sam Johnson in the cockpit of an Osprey
Sam Johnson in the cockpit of an Osprey

In addition to his gift, Johnson’s family created the Hon. Sam Johnson Endowed Military Scholarship Fund for SMU students.

Researchers can access a finding aid for Sam Johnson’s congressional papers. Please contact for questions about Sam Johnson’s congressional papers in DeGolyer Library.



Sam Johnson congressional papers, MSS 0190