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Ross Bass

Photo credited to the United States Senate Historical Office

In office
November 4, 1964–January 2, 1967
Preceded by Herbert S. Walters
Succeeded by Howard H. Baker, Jr.

Born March 17, 1918
Pulaski, Tennessee
Died January 1, 1993 (aged 74)
Miami Shores, Florida
Political party Democratic

Ross Bass (March 17, 1918 – January 1, 1993) was an American florist, postmaster, Congressman, and United States Senator from Tennessee.



Bass was the son of a circuit-riding Methodist minister in rural Giles County, attended the local public schools, and graduated from Martin Methodist Junior College in Pulaski in 1938. He joined the Army Air Corps during World War II, becoming a bombardier and reaching the rank of captain. After his 1945 discharge Bass opened a flower shop in Pulaski, the county seat. He was named postmaster of Pulaski in 1946, serving until 1954.[1]

Congressional service

In 1954, he was elected as a Democratic U.S. Congressman from Tennessee's 6th District, which included Pulaski. He was reelected four times and served until 1964, when Senator Estes Kefauver died in office. A Democratic primary was held for the unexpired balance of this term in August, 1964, and Bass entered this contest, surprising some by defeating Governor of Tennessee Frank G. Clement. In November, Bass defeated the Republican nominee, Howard Baker, to win the final two years of the term.

Since the election was for an unexpired term, and in the Senate seniority is a very important consideration when being considered for committee assignments, office assignments, and the like, Bass was sworn in as soon as the election results could be certified in order to give him a slight seniority advantage over other freshmen Senators elected in 1964. Bass became Tennessee's junior Senator (the senior Senator at that time being Albert Gore, Sr.) and prepared to run for a full term in 1966.

However, this race proved problematic for Bass. Clement still desired the seat for himself, especially since term limits were going to prevent him from standing to succeed himself as governor in 1966, and without this seat he would find himself out of politics, as he had once before when faced with term limits the first time in 1958. Bass lost the 1966 Democratic Primary to Clement that August, even though he received 10% more votes than in the previous election. At the time, there was no Republican primary elections, so his loss was greatly attributed to a large Republican cross over vote. Since he had defeated Howard Baker 2 years earlier by a good margin of victory, the Rupublicans felt they had a better chance of defeating Clement. (Clement then proceeded to lose in the general election to Baker, who became Tennessee's first elected post-Reconstruction Republican Senator).

Later political career

Bass subsequently made two attempts to re-enter politics. He ran for the 1974 Democratic nomination for governor but finished fifth in a nine-man field, a surprisingly weak finish for a former Senator. (His strong stand against capital punishment was generally considered to hinder him.) In 1976 he entered the Democratic primary for his former House seat and won the nomination. However, the district had been significantly redrawn since his previous service. Bass found himself running in a large amount of territory he did not know and that did not know him. In addition, much of this territory was heavily Republican, having been added by the state legislature after the 1970 census in an attempt to punish his successor in Congress, William Anderson for his perceived liberalism. He lost badly—by over 30 points—to Robin Beard, the Republican who had defeated Anderson, despite 1976 otherwise being almost a Democratic sweep in Tennessee, which voted for Jimmy Carter for President and saw the defeat of Senator Bill Brock in favor of Jim Sasser. Bass apparently saw that he had no future in elective politics.

Personal life

His first marriage ended in divorce in 1967. He later married Jacqui Colter. After his 1976 loss, he moved to Florida, where he lived in North Miami until his death of lung cancer in 1993, survived by his second wife. His brother, Horace Bass, is a retired Methodist minister and a former state Cabinet member and owner of a manufacturing firm in Nashville best-known for its line of mattresses, Fluffo.


  1. ^ "Obituaries:Ross Bass, Ex-Senator; Tennessean Was 75"; New York Times January 2, 1993
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
James Patrick Sutton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 6th congressional district

Succeeded by
William R. Anderson
United States Senate
Preceded by
Herbert S. Walters
United States Senator (Class 2) from Tennessee
Served alongside: Albert Gore
Succeeded by
Howard H. Baker


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