(VIDEO) U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
The Texas Tech University Vietnam Archive was renamed the Sam Johnson Vietnam Archive today (Oct. 18) in honor of the U.S. Congressman who has worked tirelessly to benefit troops and veterans since his own 29-year career in the U.S. Air Force.
U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, 87, flew combat missions in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars and endured nearly seven years as a prisoner of war (POW) in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, including 42 months in solitary confinement. He chronicled his experience in his autobiography, "Captive Warriors,” and in an oral history now housed in the Vietnam Center and Archive, the nation's largest and most comprehensive collection of information on the Vietnam War.
"I'm truly humbled that Texas Tech's Vietnam Archive will bear my name,” Johnson said. "I proudly supported this facility over the years, and I'm encouraged to see that it is playing an integral role in preserving the stories of America's Vietnam veterans as well as educating future generations about this time in our nation's history.
"I thank all our veterans for their service and sacrifice in defense of freedom. It is my hope that these Archives will be a living reminder for you that your university – and your country – support you always. The Archive may bear my name, but it belongs to every person who has donned the uniform of our Armed Forces.”
Steve Maxner, director of the Vietnam Center and Archive, said as soon as he met Johnson, the Congressman immediately agreed to participate in the facility's oral history project, and his late wife, Shirley, donated her personal collection of papers and materials. The center also had just started the Virtual Vietnam Archive, a project to digitize the collections in the Vietnam Archive, for which Johnson became an advocate.
"Because of his leadership and unwavering support, we received a total of $3.4 million in federal funding for the Virtual Vietnam Archive and have digitized more than 7 million pages of historical documents from our collections, providing free Internet access to these important materials and reaching an audience of millions of students, scholars, teachers, veterans and researchers around the globe,” Maxner said.
"We hope this event and the naming of the Vietnam Archive in his honor conveys the depth of the respect, admiration and appreciation we have for Congressman Johnson and for all he has done for Texas Tech University, the State of Texas and our nation. We are immensely proud that his legacy will be a permanent part of the Vietnam Center and Archive at Texas Tech.”
The Virtual Vietnam Archive has been used by a wide range of researchers, scholars, documentary film makers, teachers and students as the world continues to learn about the Vietnam War. It also has been used by various U.S. governmental agencies in providing lessons learned for more contemporary conflicts and in accounting for the more than 1,600 U.S. personnel still listed as missing from the war.
"Congressman Johnson's selfless military service and many years as a Congressman are examples of a person who has dedicated his life to his country,” Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec said. "Drawing upon his experiences, he played an integral role in Texas Tech acquiring funding and materials for The Vietnam Archive. We are proud that this archive bears his name, and future generations of students and researchers will continue to greatly benefit from this impressive collection.”
After his military service, Johnson returned home to the Dallas area, where he served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1985 to 1991 and in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1991. He is a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means.
"Congressman Johnson has been an unwavering supporter of and advocate for the Vietnam Center and Archive at Texas Tech University,” Texas Tech University System Chancellor Robert Duncan said. "A decorated war hero and leader in Congress for three decades, Congressman Johnson's partnership with the archive for the creation of the virtual collection has elevated Texas Tech to a world-renowned resource on the Vietnam War. The Texas Tech University System is honored and proud to have the Vietnam Archive named after such a distinguished and honorable man.”
Johnson has received numerous awards, including two Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, one Bronze Star with Valor, two Purple Hearts, four Air Medals and three Outstanding Unit Awards. In 2009, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society bestowed on him its highest civilian accolade, the National Patriot Award, for his tireless work on behalf of the troops, veterans and freedom.
"As a fighter pilot in Korea, a POW in Vietnam and a statesman in the halls of Congress, Sam Johnson is an American war hero and iconic leader in Texas politics,” said U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington, who represents the 19th District of Texas, including Lubbock. "It is a privilege to serve alongside such an extraordinary patriot. The Texas Tech Vietnam Archive is nationally renowned as one of the great collections of its kind and will now, appropriately, bear the name of one of the great warriors of that era.”