On May 30, 2019, former Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran died.
Cochran grew up in Pontotoc, Mississippi, where he graduated valedictorian and lettered in multiple sports. Among his many jobs, he worked at a grocery store, a construction company, a dairy bar, and even on his family’s cattle ranch.
He graduated from the University of Mississippi, served in the U.S. Navy, then went back to school to study law.
In 1972, he won his first Congressional election in the Fourth District of Mississippi. In 1978, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, the first Republican to win a statewide election in Mississippi in over a century. In total, Cochran was elected seven times before resigning from public office.
One of Cochran’s priorities while in office was funding university research, which is critical to agriculture. He was also successful in directing funding to his home state, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He became known as the “King of Pork,” but let’s be honest, you would’ve done the same thing for your hurting home state in that position.
In addition to Sen. Cochran serving as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, he also served as chairman and member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. In fact, his portrait hangs in the committee’s hearing room.
Cochran retired from the Senate on April 1, 2018, after 45 years of public service. He was the 10th longest-serving senator in history.
Upon the news of his death, condolences poured in from both sides of the aisle. Sen. Cochran was truly a southern gentleman who treated others with respect.
President Trump tweeted, “Very sad to hear the news on the passing of my friend, Senator Thad Cochran. He was a real Senator with incredible values—even flew back to Senate from Mississippi for important Healthcare Vote when he was desperately ill. Thad never let our Country (or me) down!”
Sen. Chuck Schumer said, “Thad Cochran was one of the most personally decent, nicest people I’ve met in my career in the Senate. He will be missed.”
His successor, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith said, “One of my most cherished moments, which I will hold in my heart forever, is playing God Bless America on the piano while he sang it in his Senate office on his last day there.”
Cochran was also known as “The Quiet Persuader” for his mild manner in securing legislative successes.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “When I say he preferred making a difference to making a fuss, I really mean it. This man served in the Senate for seven terms and only appeared on ‘Meet the Press’ twice.”
Cochran preferred not to negotiate in the press, a practice that is virtually extinct in Washington.
In his final farewell speech on the Senate floor, Cochran said, “I trust if your travels bring you to Oxford, Mississippi, you will not hesitate to visit and join me for a refreshment on the porch. We can listen to the mockingbirds together.”
Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.