Republican former U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, who served 45 years in Washington and used seniority to steer billions of dollars to his home state of Mississippi, has died. He was 81.
Known as the “Quiet Persuader” for his gentlemanly manner, Cochran cultivated loyalty and respect from his staff and from politicians inside and outside his home state.
His final chief of staff, Brad White, said Cochran died Thursday at a veterans’ nursing home in Oxford, Mississippi.
“I’ve never known a more powerful man, nor a more humble man — a true Southern gentleman that loved the great state of Mississippi,” White said.
President Donald Trump said on Twitter, “He was a real Senator with incredible values — even flew back to Senate from Mississippi for important Healthcare Vote when he was desperately ill.”
Cochran was elected to the U.S. House in 1972. Winning a Senate seat in 1978, he became the first Republican since Reconstruction to win statewide office in Mississippi.
He led the Appropriations Committee in 2005-06, channeling more than $100 billion to Mississippi and other Gulf Coast states for Hurricane Katrina recovery after the 2005 storm, and regained the committee chairmanship in January 2015, when the GOP again took control of the Senate.
Cochran won reelection in 2014, but announced in 2018 that he was retiring because of his health.
Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi said Thursday that Cochran was “a dear personal friend for decades.”
“Thad Cochran was a giant in the United States Senate and one of the greatest champions Mississippi has ever known,” said Wicker, who has served in the Senate since 2007.