At a time of chaos and anarchy over the issue of the Speakership of the House of Representatives, it is instructive to examine the history of that office, which has had 55 individuals filling that role.
A small number of Speakers of the House of Representatives have made history, and are seen as exceptional.
The longest serving Speaker was Sam Rayburn of Texas, who held that position for 17 years, only ended by his death in 1961.
Henry Clay of Kentucky, arguably the greatest Presidential candidate who did not win the Presidency in all of US history, served a total of 10.5 years as Speaker of the House.
Thomas (Tip) O’Neill of Massachusetts was third longest serving, 10 years from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s.
John W. McCormack of Massachusetts served 9 years in the 1960s, followed by Nancy Pelosi, who served 8 years from 2007-2011 and 2019-2023.
Dennis Hastert of Illinois, later disgraced by conviction on sex charges, is the longest serving Republican Speaker, serving a few days less than Pelosi, but still about 8 years at the end of the 20th and early 21st century.
Champ Clark of Missouri served about 7 years in the 1910s and Carl Albert of Oklahoma served about 6 years in the 1970s, followed by slightly less service in days by Joseph Cannon of Illinois, often called the “Czar” of the House because of his great authority that was tamed by “revolution” in House rules in 1910, and by Tom Foley of Washington State in the 1990s.
So about 87 years out of the total of 234 years of the history of the House of Representatives were served by these 10 individuals, with the other 45 serving a total of 147 years among them.
Kevin McCarthy’s 9 month tenure made him the third shortest serving Speaker, only more than Michael Kerr who died in office in 1875, and Theodore Pomeroy, who served one day in 1869.