Inhofe is one of six current members of the chamber to have notched record-setting service from their state

Oklahoma Republican U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe announced this week he was cutting his sixth term short and resigning at the end of the 117th Congress this January.

Inhofe is already the longest-serving Oklahoma U.S. Senator in history – at 27 years, 3 months, and 11 days through February 27th. [That number would reach 28 years, 1 month, 18 days on January 3, 2023].

Only two other Oklahomans have eclipsed 20 years representing their state in the chamber: Republican Don Nickles (1981-2005; 24 years) and Democrat Elmer Thomas (1927-1951; 23 years, 9 months, 30 days).

Twelve of the state’s 18 senators have served more than one term with the average tenure of just under 13 years.

Inhofe is also by far the oldest Oklahoma U.S. Senator in history at 87 years, 3 months, and 10 days through Sunday. He would reach 88 years, 1 month, and 17 days of age on his intended last day on the job.

Just two predecessors served into their 70s: Republican Edward Moore (1943-1949; 77 years, 1 month, 15 days upon his exit from the chamber) and the aforementioned Democrat Elmer Thomas (74 years, 3 months, 26 days).

Senator Inhofe is currently one of six U.S. Senators who has recorded the longest tenure in the chamber from his or her state.

The other five are Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy (47 years, 1 month, 24 days through Sunday), Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley (41 years, 1 month, 24 days). Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell (37 years, 1 month, 24 days), Alabama Republican Richard Shelby (35 years, 1 month, 24 days), and California Democrat Dianne Feinstein (29 years, 3 months, 23 days).

Meanwhile, New York Democrat Chuck Schumer (23 years, 1 month, 24 days) will pass up Jacob Javits (23 years, 11 months, 25 days) in December and tie current Empire State record holder Democrat Daniel Patrick Moyhnihan (24 years) on January 3rd.

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4 Comments

  1. Connor Cobb on February 27, 2022 at 12:08 pm

    [That number would reach 28 years, 1 month, 18 days on January 3, 2022].
    That should say 2023.

    Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden (26 years, 21 days) will become the seventh person on this list this October when he eclipses Republican Charles McNary (1917-1918; 1918-1944; 26 years, 7 months, 25 days).
    Actually, Ron Wyden would be the 3rd longest in OR history. Mark Hatfield had 30 years from 1967-1997 and Bob Packwood had 26 years, 271 days from 1969-1995. Which means that Ron Wyden will not be the states longest senator until Feb. 5th 2026.



    • Dr. Eric Ostermeier on February 27, 2022 at 1:53 pm

      Thanks for catching that stat on Wyden, Connor – updated above. Much appreciated.



  2. Flickertail Pembina on February 27, 2022 at 9:11 pm

    With his RESIGNATION announcement (intended to be on 03-01-2023) by Inhofe, Dewey Follett Bartlett (Sr.) is confirmed to be the most recent OK US senator from the Class 2 seat both to take and leave his US senate seat in the regular manner.

    Will James Paul Lankford be the first to complete his term since Donald Lee Nickles (3 of 01 1981 – 3 of 01 2005) ?



  3. John Chessant on February 28, 2022 at 1:07 am

    Oklahoma continues its curious aversion to appointed U.S. senators. Its most recent appointed U.S. senator was Howard Edmondson, who as governor in 1963 arranged his self-appointment to the seat left vacant by the death of Robert Kerr; he ran in the 1964 special election but evidently voters did not take too kindly to his pathway to the Senate as he lost the Democratic primary runoff to Fred Harris by a large margin.

    Since then, Oklahoma has seen three irregular retirements from the Senate, and each was announced in advance so that a special election could be held before the effective resignation date: David Boren held onto his seat until Inhofe won a 1994 special; Tom Coburn stayed until James Lankford won a 2014 special; and likewise Inhofe will stay until a successor is chosen in November 2022.

    [Resignations timed to be at or near the end of a Congress (or at least the end of a year’s session) are not too uncommon. e.g. William Saxbe (Jan 1974), Jim DeMint (Jan 2013), Al Franken (Jan 2018), Luther Strange (Jan 2018), Jon Kyl (Dec 2018), Johnny Isakson (Dec 2019). Since the 20th Amendment, some V.P.-elects choose not to serve the first few days of a new Congress before their January 20 inauguration (LBJ, Humphrey, Mondale, Quayle, Gore) while others do (Truman, Barkley, Biden, Harris). However, all of these senators were followed by appointed successors, with the exception of Strange who was succeeded by Doug Jones on January 3, 2018, despite the certification of Alabama’s 2017 special election occurring a week earlier.]