As of February 2022, who was the oldest U.S. senator in history?
James Strom Thurmond Sr. (December 5, 1902 – June 26, 2003) was an American politician, military officer, and attorney who represented South Carolina in the United States Senate from 1954 to 2003. Prior to his 48 years as a senator, he served as the 103rd governor of South Carolina from 1947 to 1951. Thurmond was a member of the Democratic Party until 1964 when he joined the Republican Party for the remainder of his legislative career. He also ran for president in 1948 as the "Dixiecrat" candidate, receiving over a million votes and winning four states.
In the 1960s, he voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Despite his support for racial segregation, Thurmond always denied the accusation that he was a racist by insisting he was a supporter of states' rights and an opponent of excessive federal authority.
He chaired the Judiciary and Armed Services Committees and was elected president pro tempore. The longest-serving senator as well as the oldest, he turned 100 years old in December 5, 2002, the only senator to reach that milestone while still in office. He also holds the Senate's record for the longest individual speech, his filibuster against the 1957 Civil Rights Act, which lasted for 24 hours and 18 minutes.
Thurmond died in office June 26, 2002.