- John C. Stennis
name = John C. Stennis
imagesize = 175px
jr/sr = United States Senator
November 17, 1947
January 3, 1989
order2 = 100th
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
January 3, 1987
January 3, 1989
order3 = Chairman of the
United States Senate Committee on Armed Services
January 3, 1969
January 3, 1981
birth_date = birth date|1901|8|3|mf=y
Kemper County, Mississippi
death_date = death date and age|1995|4|23|1901|8|3|mf=y
party = Democratic
spouse = Coy Hines
John Cornelius Stennis (
August 3, 1901– April 23, 1995) was a U.S. Senator from the state of Mississippi. He was a Democrat who served in the Senate for over 41 years, becoming its most senior member by his retirement.
Kemper County, Mississippi, Stennis received a bachelor's degreefrom Mississippi State Universityin Starkville (then Mississippi A&M) in 1923. In 1928, Stennis obtained a law degree from the University of Virginiaat Charlottesville, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappaand Alpha Chi Rho. While in law school, he won a seat in the Mississippi House of Representatives, in which he served until 1932. Stennis was a prosecutor from 1932 to 1937 and a circuit judgefrom 1937 to 1947, both for Mississippi's Sixteenth Judicial District.
Upon the death of Senator
Theodore Bilboin 1947, Stennis won the special electionto fill the vacancy, winning the seat from a field of five candidates (including two sitting Congressmen: John E. Rankinand William M. Colmer). He remained in the Senate until 1989. From 1947 to 1978, he served alongside fellow Mississippi senator and Democrat James Eastland; notwithstanding his long service Stennis would serve 35 years as Mississippi's "junior" Senator. He and Eastland were at the time the longest serving Senate duo in American history, later broken by the South Carolinaduo of Strom Thurmondand Fritz Hollings. He later developed a good relationship with Eastland's successor, Republican Thad Cochran.
Stennis wrote the first Senate ethics code, and was the first chairman of the
Senate Ethics Committee.
In 1973, Stennis was almost fatally wounded by two gunshots after being mugged outside his Washington home. In October 1973, during the
Watergate scandal, the Nixon administrationproposed the Stennis compromise, wherein the hard-of-hearing Stennis would listen to the contested Oval Officetapes and report on their contents,Fact|date=February 2007 but this plan went nowhere.
Stennis lost his left leg to
He was unanimously selected President pro tempore of the Senate during the
100th Congress(1987–1989). During his Senate career he chaired, at various times, the Select Committee on Standards and Conduct, the Armed Services committee, and the Appropriations committee. Because of his work with the Armed Services committee (1969–1980) he became known as the "Father of America's Modern Navy", and he was subsequently honored by having a supercarrier named after him. He is one of only two members of Congress to be so honored, the other being former Georgia Democrat Carl Vinson.
Civil rights record
Throughout Stennis' long career, his record on
civil rightswas a mixed one. As a prosecutor, he sought the conviction and execution of three black men whose murderconfessions had been extracted by torture. The convictions were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Courtin the landmark case of " Brown v. Mississippi" (1936) that banned the use of evidence obtained by torture. The transcript of the trial indicates Stennis was fully aware of the methods of interrogation, including flogging, used to gain confessions.
As a Senator, Stennis was initially a strong supporter of
racial segregation, though his rhetoric was not nearly as virulent as other Mississippi politicians during the Civil Rights Movement. Nonetheless, in the 1950s and 1960s he vigorously opposed such legislation as the Voting Rights Act, as did most Southern senators. He also signed the Southern Manifestoof 1956 and openly supported Barry Goldwater's presidential bid in 1964, as did most of the state's prominent Democrats.
However, by the 1980s he regularly supported legislation to extend the civil rights of women and minorities, though he opposed the
Martin Luther Kingholiday. He also campaigned (along with Governor Bill Allain) for Mike Espyin 1986 during Espy's successful bid to become the first black Congressman from the state since the end of Reconstruction.
Earlier in his career, Stennis had been the first Democrat to publicly criticize
Joseph McCarthyon the Senate floor during the Red Scare, while Eastland supported McCarthy to the end. On balance, he was much more supportive of civil rights than Eastland. In some ways, Stennis' record on civil rights is similar to those of Goldwater, Robert Byrd, Sam Ervinand J. William Fulbright— all of whom opposed many federal civil rights bills not out of explicit racism, but because they felt the bills gave the federal government too much power over the states. Still, Stennis shied away from supporting civil rights legislation when there was no political risk in doing so.
Declining to run for re-election in 1988, Stennis retired from the Senate in 1989 at the height of his popularity. He never lost an election in 60 years as an elected official. He took a teaching post at his alma mater, which he held until his death in Jackson at the age of 93.
In his last election in 1982, Stennis easily defeated Republican
Haley Barbourin a largely Democratic year.
At the time of Stennis' retirement, his continuous tenure of 41 years and 2 months in the Senate was second only to that of
Carl Hayden. (It has since been surpassed by Robert Byrd, Strom Thurmond, Ted Kennedy, and Daniel Inouye, leaving Stennis sixth).
John Stennis is buried at Pinecrest Cemetery in Kemper County. He and his wife, the former Coy Hines, had two children, John Hampton and Margaret Jane.
John C. Stennis Space Center
* [http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/uscode02/usc_sec_02_00001103----000-.html John C. Stennis Center for Public Service Training and Development] ( [http://www.stennis.gov "Stennis Center for Public Service"] )
*John C. Stennis National Student Congress of the
National Forensic League
John C. Stennis Lock and Dam
* [http://www.sig.msstate.edu/ John C. Stennis Institute of Government]
* [http://www.msstate.edu/dept/politicalscience/org/stennis.html John C. Stennis Scholarship in Political Science]
* [http://kemper.k12.ms.us/vocal_tech/index.htm John C. Stennis Vocational Complex]
*USS "John C. Stennis"
Aircraft Carrierand Carrier Strike Group
* [http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=25364 USS John C. Stennis University]
"I want to plow a straight furrow right down to the end of the row."
* "Stennis Center for Public Service". [http://www.stennis.gov/senatorpage.htm "Tribute to John C. Stennis"] . Retrieved
June 16, 2005.
* [http://www.stennis.gov Stennis Center for Public Service]
* [http://www.cvn74.navy.mil/ USS "John C. Stennis" website]
* [http://www.ssc.nasa.gov/ John C. Stennis Space Center]
* [http://www.sig.msstate.edu/ John C. Stennis Institute of Government]
* [http://library.msstate.edu/content/templates/?a=476&z=384 Biographical Sketch of John C. Stennis] , via Mississippi State University
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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