Texans and Republicans alike lost a legend this week.
According to The Hill, former Texas Rep. Sam Johnson (R) died Wednesday at the age of 89.
A military hero
Long before Johnson served his home state of Texas in politics, he served his country for three decades in the Air Force. According to the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Johnson first entered the military in 1950 and retired in 1979 a decorated colonel.
In 1966, on one of his nearly 100 combat missions, Johnson was shot down over North Vietnam. He suffered a broken back and arm, and was captured by the North Vietnamese.
Johnson was held in captivity for almost seven years, including more than three years in solitary confinement, according to a report from the Associated Press. According to The Hill, Johnson was at one time being held as a prisoner of war (POW) with the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
Even though the enemy repeatedly tortured him, Johnson never broke. He was eventually released on Feb. 12, 1973, the AP reported.
A distinguished career
After several years with a career in the private sector, Johnson entered the political world, winning a seat in the Texas state legislature for the first time in 1984, according to the AP. He continued to hold that seat until he was elected into the U.S. House of Representatives in 1991.
Johnson’s House seat had previously been held by Rep. Steve Bartlett, who went on to become the mayor of Dallas, the AP said.
Johnson remained a congressman until January 2019, when he finally retired from office at the age of 88, according to the AP. Van Taylor, a 47-year-old Texas Republican, took his seat, The Hill reported.
A lasting legacy
While Johnson may not have been a name that was in the headlines often, he was a stalwart Republican and arguably had the most conservative record during his tenure in Congress. After Sen. McCain passed away, Johnson had the distinction of being the only POW from the Vietnam War actively serving in Congress until his retirement.
According to the AP, Johnson died of natural causes, and leaves behind two children and 10 grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a son, who died in 2013, and his wife, Shirley, who died in 2015, the AP reported.
The great state of Texas, and Republicans across the country, will never forget his service.