Former Sen. Thad Cochran dies at 81
Former Senate Appropriations Committee and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., died this morning (May 30) at age 81.
Conchran resigned from the Senate in April 2018 due to health concerns after serving in Congress for more than 45 years. He died in an Oxford, Miss., nursing home from renal failure, his family told The Washington Post.
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., who succeeded Cochran, said: “Mississippi has suffered a tremendous loss today. Sen. Thad Cochran was an incredible leader and a most respected member of the United States Senate.”
“My colleagues who served with him consistently speak of him with such high regard. So many have said to me that he was truly their favorite senator and friend. He treated everyone with distinction, and had a caring and concerned heart for his constituents and the state he so dearly loved.
“Mississippi is a better place because of his leadership that was guided by wisdom and faith.” 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.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said: “All of us benefited from the leadership and example of this schoolteachers’ son from Pontotoc, Miss., who rendered 45 years of distinguished service as a legendary legislator, principled leader and true gentleman.”
“Thad will be first remembered as a tireless champion of his fellow Mississippians. He took great pride in keeping promises to the people he represented — ensuring veterans’ access to care, improving educational opportunities, and continuing a record of stellar constituent service for every single Mississippian,” McConnell said.
“But the effects of Thad’s advocacy were felt far beyond Mississippi. As appropriations chairman, he wielded great influence with abundant grace. His work to improve educational opportunities raised the sights of generations of students. He helped American farmers share their knowledge and expertise with the world. And by following up his own naval service with a focus on national security policy, particularly missile defense, he left us safer.
“Sen. Cochran also believed deeply in equality and human dignity. He hired the first African-American congressional staffer to work in a Mississippi office since Reconstruction and steadily advocated for historically black colleges and universities. And on a personal level, Thad’s generous and respectful spirit left a positive impact on everyone who knew him and everyone whom he served,” McConnell said.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., offered his prayers for Cochran and his family.
“I treasure our friendship over the years on the Agriculture Committee as we worked on multiple farm bills together,” he said in a Twitter post.
“Thad was a good man and a level-headed legislator — qualities that are becoming scarce in Washington,” Roberts said.
Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., tweeted her condolences: “Very sad to hear of the passing of my dear friend, former Sen. Thad Cochran. We were partners on the Agriculture Committee and worked to pass a historic, bipartisan farm bill in 2014. We are grateful for his service and he will be missed.”
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., issued a statement and a tweet.
“Today we lost a great legislator, Sen. Thad Cochran, the last true southern gentleman and a loyal patriot,” Shelby said.
“Thad was a colleague of mine for over three decades in the Senate, and I am honored to say he was also a close personal friend. I will always fondly remember the years we spent working together.
“He served our nation with the utmost dignity and respect. Not only was he one of the leading pioneers of the Republican Party within his state, but he was a true hero to the people of Mississippi. Thad’s impact on Mississippi and the entire nation will forever reflect his legacy of dedication and strong leadership.”
Senate Appropriations Committee VIce Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., described Cochran as “a devoted public servant, a lion of the Senate, and one of my dearest friends.”
“Despite our political differences, I knew Thad held the interests of the people of Mississippi — and the country — close to his heart.
“We were close partners through the years on the Agriculture Committee, which we both chaired. Our friendship was a driving force behind our work as chairman and vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee, forging bipartisan agreement in an increasingly partisan Congress.
“We visited farms together in Vermont — where he expressed amazement at the cold seasonal temperatures — and in Mississippi, and we led Senate delegations to the Middle East, former Eastern Bloc nations, and other regions. We worked together to champion the Farm To School Act, which connects young children to local agriculture and fresh, healthy food.”
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said: “Chairman Cochran was a gentleman to all who knew and worked with him, but his calm demeanor belied a skilled legislator who represented his state well. I was fortunate to work with him in his role at the Senate Agriculture Committee, where he was a strong advocate for America’s farmers and ranchers as well as those who participate in the farm bill’s nutrition programs.”
President Donald Trump also tweeted his thoughts: “Very sad to hear the news on the passing of my friend, Sen. Thad Cochran. He was a real senator with incredible values — even flew back to Senate from Mississippi for important health care vote when he was desperately ill. Thad never let our country (or me) down!”