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Thad Cochran

U.S. Senator William Thad Cochran

Assumed office 
December 27, 1978
Serving with Roger Wicker
Preceded by James O. Eastland

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Mississippi's 4th district
In office
January 3, 1973 – December 26, 1978
Preceded by Sonny Montgomery
Succeeded by Jon Hinson

In office
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2005
Preceded by Tom Harkin
Succeeded by Saxby Chambliss

In office
January 3, 2005 – January 3, 2007
Preceded by Ted Stevens
Succeeded by Robert Byrd

Born December 7, 1937 (1937-12-07) (age 72)
Pontotoc, Mississippi
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Rose Clayton Cochran
Residence Jackson, Mississippi
Alma mater University of Mississippi
Occupation attorney
Religion Baptist
Website U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1959-1961

William Thad Cochran (born December 7, 1937) is the senior United States Senator from Mississippi, and is a member of the Republican Party.


Early life

He was born in Pontotoc, Mississippi, to William Holmes Cochran and Emma Grace (nee Berry), a school principal and a teacher, respectively. His family settled in Hinds County, Mississippi, home of the state capital, Jackson, in 1946 after a few moves around the northern part of the state. Cochran still lives in Jackson today.Cochran earned Eagle Scout as a youth and was awarded the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award as an adult. He graduated from Byram High School near Jackson and received a B.A. degree from the University of Mississippi with a major in psychology and a minor in political science in 1959. There he joined the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity and was on the cheerleading squad with fellow senator Trent Lott. After a time in the United States Navy (1959–1961), he attended the University of Mississippi School of Law, was elected to the Phi Kappa Phi honor society and graduated in 1965. He then practiced law for seven years. He married Rose Clayton on June 6, 1964; the couple has two children.

Cochran grew up as a Democrat, but became a Republican sometime in the mid-to-late 1960s. He served as head of Richard Nixon's Mississippi campaign in 1968.

U.S. Congressional career

In 1972, Congressman Charles H. Griffin of Mississippi's 3rd congressional district decided not to run for a third full term. Cochran won the Republican nomination for the Jackson-based district, which was renumbered as Mississippi's 4th congressional district after redistricting. He defeated Democratic state senator Ellis Bodron by just under four points. A factor in Cochran's victory was the strong Republican showing in that year's presidential election, in which Nixon won 49 of 50 states, and 78 percent of Mississippi's popular vote. That year, Cochran and Trent Lott (who later served alongside him in the U.S. Senate) became the second and third Republicans to represent Mississippi in the House of Representatives since Reconstruction. Cochran quickly became very popular in this district, even though almost none of its living residents had been represented by a Republican before. He was handily reelected in 1974, a year in which anger over the Watergate scandal caused several Republicans to lose their seats. He was reelected by an even larger margin in 1976.

In 1978, Cochran, running for the U.S. Senate in the wake of James Eastland's decision not not to run for re-election, then defeated Democrat Maurice Dantin and independent candidate Charles Evers. This made him the first Republican to win a statewide election in Mississippi since Reconstruction. Evers, the brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, may have siphoned off many black votes that would have otherwise gone to Dantin.[citation needed]

When Eastland resigned two days after Christmas, Cochran was appointed to the seat by governor Cliff Finch and started his Senate career a week early. He handily defeated Governor William Winter in 1984, was unopposed in 1990, reelected with over 70 percent of the vote in 1996 and faced no major-party opposition in 2002. He won reelection in 2008 by a wide margin over Erik Fleming; assuming Cochran completes his current term, he will pass Eastland as the second-longest serving Senator in Mississippi's history. Until 1989, Cochran served alongside longtime Democrat John Stennis, the longest-serving Senator in Mississippi's history. He is currently the eighth-longest serving Senator, and the third longest-serving Republican.

Cochran's voting record is considered fairly moderate by Southern Republican standards. He has a lifetime rating of 80 from the American Conservative Union. In 2008, he garnered a rating of 68 from the ACU; the only Republican Senators from a Southern state to score lower were Mel Martinez of Florida and John Warner of Virginia.

Generally, Cochran keeps a lower national profile than conventional wisdom would suggest for a six-term Senator. This stands in marked contrast to Eastland, Stennis and Lott. However, Cochran has considerable influence behind the scenes, especially in Mississippi. This is not surprising given his status as the "elder statesman" of the state Republican Party.

Cochran served as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference (caucus) from 1991 to 1996, and is its only former chair currently in the Senate; he chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee from 2003 to 2005. In 2005, he was appointed as chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, making him the first Republican from a former Confederate state to chair the committee. He is currently that committee's ranking Republican.

It appears that recognition from his colleagues was quick in coming: In 2005, an agricultural appropriations bill proposed by the Committee Cochran chaired contained a provision (sec. 782) that said:

The Federal facility located at the South Mississippi Branch Experiment Station in Poplarville, Mississippi, and known as the "Southern Horticultural Laboratory", shall be known and designated as the "Thad Cochran Southern Horticultural Laboratory"[1]

In April 2006, he was selected by Time as one of "America's 10 Best Senators". He was dubbed "The Quiet Persuader" for his role in winning money for the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He managed to win "$29 billion out of his colleagues, almost double the money Bush and Congressional leaders had initially pledged". Earlier, Cochran threatened to derail a defense appropriations bill unless it included funding for installations on the Gulf Coast. The article also noted that Cochran has "gained the trust of the Administration and Capitol Hill for his quiet, courtly manner... using his experience and mastery of the issues to persuade his colleagues privately rather than making demands on them in public". The magazine quoted an unnamed "senior GOP Senator" who said "He doesn't get a whole lot of play in terms of coverage, but he is effectively stubborn doing what needs to be done."[2]

On July 18, 2006, Cochran voted, along with 19 Republican Senators, for the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act to lift restrictions on federal funding for the research.

In 2005 he was one of nine senators who voted against the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibited "inhumane treatment of prisoners, including prisoners at Guantanamo Bay". The others, all Republicans, were Wayne Allard, Kit Bond, Tom Coburn, Jeff Sessions, Jim Inhofe, Pat Roberts, John Cornyn and Ted Stevens.

In March 2009 his former aide, Ann Copland, pleaded guilty to swapping legislative favors for event tickets and other gifts from lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Copland worked for Cochran for 29 years.[3] Cochran has not been indicted for any charges in connection to Jack Abramoff.

Committee assignments

Electoral history

United States Senate election in Mississippi, 2008

Thad Chochran (R) (inc.) 720,200 (61.69%)
Erik R. Fleming (D) 447,316 (38.31%)

United States Senate election in Mississippi, 2002

Thad Cochran (R) (inc.) 85.6%
Shawn O'Hara (Reform) 14.4%

1996 Mississippi United States Senatorial Election

Thad Cochran (R) (inc.) 71%
James Hunt (D) 27.4%
Ted Weill 1.6%

1984 Mississippi United States Senatorial Election

Thad Cochran (R) (inc.) 60.9%
William Winter (D) 39.1%

1978 Mississippi United States Senatorial Election

Thad Cochran (R) 45.1%
Maurice Dantin (D) 31.8%
Charles Evers (I) 22.9%


External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Sonny Montgomery
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Mississippi's 4th congressional district

January 3, 1973 – December 26, 1978
Succeeded by
Jon Hinson
United States Senate
Preceded by
James O. Eastland
United States Senator (Class 2) from Mississippi
December 27, 1978 – present
Served alongside: John C. Stennis, Trent Lott, Roger Wicker
Political offices
Preceded by
Tom Harkin
Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee
Succeeded by
Saxby Chambliss
Preceded by
Ted Stevens
Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee
Succeeded by
Robert C. Byrd
Party political offices
Preceded by
Gil Carmichael
Republican Party nominee for United States Senator from Mississippi
(class 2)

1978, 1984, 1990, 1996, 2002, 2008
Succeeded by
Most recent
Preceded by
Jake Garn
Vice-Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference
Succeeded by
Bob Kasten
Preceded by
John H. Chafee
(Rhode Island)
Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference
Succeeded by
Connie Mack III
United States order of precedence
Preceded by
Max Baucus
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Carl Levin


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