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PostSam Houston Johnson and Sam Robert Johnson (Randy Black, USA, 04/28/12 5:04 am)
When commenting my post of 27 April, JE wrote: "Embarrassing presidential relatives are as much a part of the office as 'Hail to the Chief.' I guess [Pres. Obama's] Aunt Zeituni is legal now! What is notable is that nobody questioned the 'Americanness' of Billy Carter, Roger Clinton, Donald Nixon or (my favorite, if only for his name) Sam Houston Johnson."
I'm so happy that John brought up the name, Sam Houston Johnson, the younger brother of President Lyndon Johnson. I met both brothers. In fact, President Johnson handed me my first professional award in journalism in the early 1970s in Dallas. He also handed me my second award (for spot news photography) a few months later in Austin. LBJ was a fun guy at both parties. The man could drink and tell a good joke. His brother was pretty much just an old drunk. Old, I suppose, is relative term, me being currently two years older that LBJ's brother was when he died.
There is a second Sam Johnson, however, that I often think of. He is Sam Robert Johnson, the United States Congressman from the 3rd District of Texas, which includes my residence.
I first met then Lt. Sam Johnson in 1973 on the cold, February tarmac of Wichita Falls' Shepherd Air Force Base. Johnson was later elected to Congress and remains one of the few active Congressmen who served in combat.
I later took the attached photo of Johnson and his wife Shirley in his hometown, Plano, Texas, when the then small town held a parade in his honor a few months later. This signed photo hangs above my desk in my home office and in Congressman Johnson's Plano office. I signed his; he signed mine.
In my February 23, 2010 WAIS post, I wrote the following: "I've known Sam distantly since he got off a POW transport plane in Wichita Falls, Texas on a cold mid- February day in 1973 after spending almost seven years in the Hanoi Hilton. Prior to his seven years of torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese, Sam had flown 62 combat missions in Korea, had served as director of the Air Force's Top Gun School, had flown the slot and solo positions in the Air Force Thunderbirds and had flown 24 missions over Vietnam but was shot down on the 25th. On that day, he broke an arm, his shoulder and his back, which his captors constantly tried unsuccessfully to use to their advantage during the torture sessions and imprisonment.
"From Sam's Website: Johnson spent nearly seven years as a prisoner of war, 42 months in solitary confinement. Forced into solitary when his captors labeled him a die-hard, Johnson committed 374 names (fellow POWs) to memory from tapping a special code on the prison wall. We were all trying to memorize names in case anybody got out, Johnson remembers.
"While held in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, Johnson spent 72 days in leg stocks. A day after that torture ended, his captors forced him into leg irons for 2 and 1/2 years. Weighing 200 lbs. when shot down, an emaciated Johnson got down to an estimated 120 lbs while barely surviving on the occasional meal of weeds from the river, pig fat, white rice, or pumpkin soup.
"Fellow POW Capt. James Mulligan, USN (Ret.) recalled the day Johnson was allowed to return to a joint cell. He walked into the room with the two other detained American officers, stood at attention with tears in his eyes, and said simply, 'Lieutenant Colonel Sam Johnson reporting for duty, Sir' after he had not talked to or directly been with an American for three and a half years.
After 29 years in the Air Force, Sam returned to Plano, Texas and started a home construction business before being elected first to the Texas State House and later to the US House of Representatives in 1991.
I really doubt that any of us in WAIS would consider Sam financially wealthy, but it's likely that we'd all agree if we knew him as I do, to borrow from It's a Wonderful Life, "he's the richest man in town."
JE comments: Photo below. Has anyone read Sam Houston Johnson's My Brother Lyndon (1970), which appears to have been ghostwritten? According to an Amazon reviewer, the book led to a rift between the brothers that was never healed before LBJ's death in 1973.
Sam Robert Johnson, Plano TX, 1973