Gainesville Daily Register

March 19, 2013

Local family fondly recalls Sam Rayburn connection

By CATHY MOUNCE

Gainesville — A current Gainesville resident recently discussed his family ties to a Texan who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1913, and later served as Speaker of the House.

Dan “Sparky” Flint III said his father Dan Flint, Jr. was the ringbearer at the wedding of Sam Rayburn, known to the Flints as “Mr. Sam.”

The Flints, he said, had a long association with Sam Rayburn through the first marriage of Flint’s grandfather Dan Flint, Sr.

How it all happened

In 1909, Dan Flint, Sr., married  Mary Jones, whose brother Marvin was a lifelong friend of Rayburn. Marvin Jones eventually became a U.S. Congressman and a judge in the U.S. Court of Claims.

Soon after they married, Mary Jones Flint died and Dan Flint, Sr. married Ferol Elkins of Gainesville.

And in 1921, Dan Flint, Jr. was born and he later became the father of Dan ‘Sparky” Flint III.

“Even though they were not directly related, Dad always thought of Marvin Jones as ‘Uncle Marvin,’” Sparky Flint said.  

Jones met Rayburn — a Bonham native — when he went to Washington to serve in Congress. The two representatives shared an apartment and became lifelong friends.

Marvin introduced Sam to his sister Mitzi from Valley View, and in 1927, despite a considerable age difference, Sam and Mitzi were married.

When planning their wedding, the couple chose Dan Flint, Jr., then 5 years old, to be a ringbearer for the ceremony.

The story endures

Although the association with legendary Speaker of the House Rayburn was brief, the connection become part of the Flint family’s lore.

“Dad always loved to tell this story about being the ring bearer at Sam Rayburn’s wedding,” Sparky said. “The wedding was held at the Methodist church in Valley View.”

The Rayburn marriage, however, turned out to be short-lived.

Mitzi Rayburn reportedly found it difficult to adjust to life in Washington D.C. and that, along with the couple’s age difference led to the couple’s divorce.

Rayburn never remarried and Sparky Flint said many people still don’t realize Rayburn was ever married.

“Dad was living proof that Mr. Sam did marry once because he was a witness, young as he was,” Sparky said. “People who were convinced Mr. Sam had never married soon changed their mind after talking to Dad.”

Both Dan Flint, Sr. and Dan Flint, Jr. were morticians who served the Gainesville community for many years.

Sparky Flint said there are similarities between his father and Sam Rayburn.

“Dad always said that Mr. Sam was a man who never forgot where he came from,“ Sparky said. “When Mr. Sam was in Washington he wore expensive suits and looked the part of a great politician. But when he came home to Bonham, he dressed simply in cotton shirts, jeans and a favorite cowboy hat. He truly was of the people, by the people and for the people.”

Remembering Rayburn

Sam Rayburn died in 1961, at the age of 79 of pancreatic cancer.

Three presidents and a vice-president sat together at his funeral in Bonham crossing party lines to honor a man who had meant so much to Texas and the nation: Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, Democrat John F. Kennedy, Democrat Harry S. Truman and future Democratic president Lyndon B. Johnson.

Buried in Bonham, Rayborn was once referenced as saying the one thing he most regretted in life was that he never had a boy to take fishing with him like many fathers did with their sons.

“Dad thought a lot about Mr. Sam,” Sparky Flint said. “He would often say ‘I wish we had more leaders today like Sam Rayburn,’” Flint said. “I believe my Dad and Mr. Sam were cut out of the same cloth. Both worked for the people they served.

“Both were men with personal integrity.”

A celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of the date Rayburn took office is planned for  10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Sam Rayburn House Museum in Bonham.