Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Speech for Senator Thad Cochran Retirement

Posted on March 23, 2018

Floor Speech for Senator Thad Cochran Retirement

March 22, 2018

Madam President, I rise to say a word about my friend Thad Cochran who is retiring from the United States Senate.

In 1968, I had the job of recruiting state chairmen for Citizens for Nixon/Agnew. I was a very young, wet behind the ears legislative assistant to Senator Howard Baker.

We were working in the Willard Hotel in the fall of 1968. The idea was to try to find outstanding citizens who weren't necessarily Republicans because in the Southern part of our country there weren't a lot of Republicans, especially in the state of Mississippi.

So I called around the state of Mississippi to see who might be willing to head up this Nixon/Agnew campaign. Everybody I called said, well there are two young men here who are just the most outstanding young men. Both are cheerleaders at Ole Miss, or have been, and both are going to grow up to be the governor of Mississippi, which was at that time, I guess, the nicest thing you could say about some aspiring young man because nobody thought that two United States Senators, Eastland and Stennis, would ever retire.

So growing up to be the governor of Mississippi was really a great compliment to a young man in Mississippi at the time. One of those young men was named Trent Lott, and one of those young men was named Thad Cochran.

I telephoned Thad Cochran, and I invited him to be chairman of the Citizens for Nixon/Agnew. He was a Democrat but he agreed to do that.

We met in October of that year in Indianapolis. The mayor of Indianapolis, Richard Luger, a young mayor at that time, later a member of this body. And that was the beginning of Thad Cochran's Republican Party activity.

Then he and that other young man who were so promising, both ran for the United States Congress in 1972, and to the surprise of a great many people, they were elected the first Republicans since reconstruction, I suppose, from Mississippi. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott.

Then in 1978, Thad Cochran did something that nobody had done from his state since reconstruction. He became a Republican who was elected to the United States Senate and he's been here ever since.

The reason he was able to be successful is not surprising. Thad was and is an engaging, pleasant person. His parents were educators, he learned to play the piano, he was a terrific baseball player, good enough to play professional baseball, he joined the Navy, and he was in every respect the outstanding young man just as he has been a distinguished public servant throughout his life.

He has been widely respected here by his colleagues. He was elected to be chairman of the Republican Conference. And most recently he has been chairman of the Appropriations Committee, which is as important as any position in this body.

In an era where not everybody seems to think it's important to act like a gentleman, Thad Cochran is a gentleman, and we respect that and the example he has set.

So he has been a pioneer for the Republican Party. He has been a good example for young people and all of us really in terms of what we should expect and try to emulate in public life.

And to me, he's been a great friend. So my wife Honey and I would like to say to him and to Kay, his wife, that we respect him, we look forward to the next chapter in his life and we honor his service to this country.