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Sam Johnson, congressman for 28 years, former POW, dies at 89

Retired Congressman Sam Johnson, 89, a true American hero, died of natural causes today in Plano.

He was born Oct. 11, 1930 in San Antonio, Tx.

Johnson married Shirley L. Melton in 1950. They had three children; Gini, Beverly and Bob.

He was preceded in death by son Bob in 2013 and Shirley in 2015.

Johnson, a retired Air Force Colonel, flew combat missions in both the Korean War and Vietnam War.

He served almost seven years as a prisoner of war after he was shot down over North Vietnam on April 16, 1966 during his 25th sortie. He spent 42 months in solitary confinement during his captivity.

A highly decorated veteran, he also was awarded distinctions in his civilian life, including the National Patriot Award, the Freedom of Flight Award and the Congressional Patriots Award.

He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, District 3, on May 8, 1991. He continued his political career for 28 years and did not seek a 15th term.

Johnson, a staunch conservative, routinely opposed “pork barrel” projects and headed the Ways and Means Committee advocating for Social Security recipients.

He also served on the Subcommittee on Health and the Joint Committee on Taxation.

His family announced his passing today on social media.

“It is with a heavy heart that the family of Congressman Sam Johnson announces his passing earlier today in Plano, Texas.

Sam Johnson was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, and friend, as well as a mentor, patriot, and American hero whose sacrifices will never be forgotten.

He is now with his beloved wife, Shirley, and their son, Bob. Together they are reunited in their eternal home with Jesus Christ.

More details and information will be forthcoming, but for today we ask for your prayers.”

Johnson was a graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School and graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1951. While at SMU he was a member of Delta Chi and Alpha Kappa Psi.

He received his master’s degree from George Washington University in 1976.

Governor Greg Abbott tonight issued a statement on Johnson’s passing:

“Sam Johnson was a fearless patriot and an American hero, and we are incredibly proud and fortunate to have called him a fellow Texan.

Congressman Johnson dedicated his life to our nation and the state of Texas. He bravely served as a fighter pilot in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and his profound sacrifice is something Texans will never forget.

As a congressman, Sam Johnson served with integrity and was always guided by his principles and the needs of the Texans he served. Today, we mourn the loss of a great Texan, but we also remember his tremendous life and the legacy he leaves behind.

Cecilia and I offer our prayers to his family and friends, and we ask all Texans to join us in remembering a true Texas icon.”

Congressman Van Taylor, who was elected to fill Johnson’s seat, released a statement on his predecessors passing:

“Today, we mourn the passing of a true hero. For twenty eight years, Sam Johnson represented the Third Congressional District with honor, respect, and, in true Texas fashion, with a whole lot of heart.

“Before Sam was elected to Congress, he served twenty-nine years in the United States Air Force and flew combat missions in both the Korean and Vietnam War, where he was shot down and taken captive. He spent nearly seven years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi Hilton enduring forty-two months in solitary confinement and repeated torture. But Sam never broke and never wavered in his commitment to his country.

“Sam Johnson was a legend – a real life legend.

“After returning home to his beloved wife, Shirley, Sam continued to serve his country, first, in the Texas House of Representatives and then in the United States Congress.

“Congressman Johnson will forever be enshrined as the embodiment of an American hero and has given our next generation a role model to emulate. I am blessed to have known Sam and to have been able to learn so much from him. His family and loved ones are in our thoughts and prayers during this time.” 

He is survived by daughters Gini and Beverly, and ten grandchildren.

From Staff Reports • [email protected]




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