- The Washington Times
Thursday, May 28, 2020

Sam Johnson, who spent seven years as a POW in Vietnam and 28 years in Congress, died Wednesday at a hospital in the Dallas area. He was 89.

According to published reports, his death was not connected to the coronavirus pandemic.

A staunch conservative, Mr. Johnson was representing a fast-growing and reliably Republican region of the Dallas area when he retired last year as the oldest member of Congress.

Rep. Van Taylor, who took his place in Congress, called Mr. Johnson a “real life legend” who couldn’t be broken by his captors in Vietnam and never wavered in his commitment to his country.

“Today we mourn the passing of a true hero,” Mr. Taylor said in a Twitter message.

A graduate of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Mr. Johnson spent almost 30 years in the Air Force before retiring as a colonel. He flew an F-86 Sabre jet fighter in dozens of combat missions during the Korean War and piloted an F-4 Phantom in Vietnam.

In 1966, he was shot down over Vietnam during his 25th combat mission. He was frequently tortured by his captors during his time in the Hanoi Hilton and walked with a noticeable limp afterwards.

Mr. Johnson was held prisoner with the late Sen. John McCain but later supported fellow Texan George W. Bush in his 2000 campaign for president.

He served in the Texas legislature for about seven years before making his first bid for the U.S. House of Representatives. He served more than a dozen terms in Washington and never faced a serious challenge to reelection.

In 1992, he published, “Captive Warriors: A Vietnam POW’s Story.”

Mr. Johnson criticized then candidate Donald Trump for his disparaging comments about fellow POW John McCain.

“When Trump said ‘I like people who weren’t captured,’ that’s just one more slap in the face to ALL FAITHFUL American POWs, whether it’s Louis Zamperini, Jim Stockdale, or your own quiet family member who doesn’t like to relive those days of torture,” Johnson said in a statement, according to The Hill newspaper.

His wife, Shirley Johnson, died in 2015. He is survived by two daughters and 10 grandchildren.

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