8 Oldest U.S. Senators that Ever Lived

In the United States, a person must be at least 30 years old in order to serve as a Senator. Due to this rule, the average age of currently serving Senators is 64 years old with most Senators taking office at the age of 51.

With such high average ages, it’s no surprise that several Senators have served in their 80s and beyond. In fact, the oldest person to ever serve as a Senator was 100 years old! In addition to being some of the oldest U.S. Senators ever, several people on this list are also the longest-serving Senators in U.S. history.

8. Dianne Feinstein (June 22, 1933 – Present)

Oldest Age While Serving: currently 84 years old
State: California
Years Served: November 4, 1992 – Present.

Dianne-Feinstein

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Dianne Feinstein is the U.S. Senator of California and currently the oldest sitting member of the Senate at 84 years old. She is known for being a liberal, left-leaning politician who has dedicated her life to serving the people of California. Prior to serving as Senator, Feinstein was elected as the mayor of San Francisco after the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978.

Upon her appointment, she became San Francisco’s first female mayor – she ran for mayor the following year and won and then went on to hold the position until 1988. In 1992, Feinstein along with Barbara Boxer became California’s first two female Senators. She is also the first and only woman to have chaired the Senate Rules Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence as well.


7. Edmund Pettus (July 6, 1821 – July 27, 1907)

Oldest Age While Serving: 86 years old
 State: Alabama
Years Served: March 4, 1897 – July 27, 1907

Edmund-Pettus

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Edmund Pettus served as the U.S. Senator of Alabama from 1897 until his death in office in 1907. He was known for being a Confederate general during the American Civil War and as a Grand Dragon in the Ku Klux Klan after the war. Prior to his political career and his service in the war, Pettus was a solicitor for the Seventh Judicial Circuit of Alabama – he resumed his law practice after the war.

He first ran for the Senate in 1896 and won the election and was re-elected in 1903. In 1965, the bridge named after Pettus in Selma, Alabama ironically became a landmark of the Civil Rights movement after the events of “Bloody Sunday” – in which 525 civil rights marchers on their way to march from Selma to Montgomery were stopped and attacked by Alabama state troopers and members of the Ku Klux Klan.


6. Andrew Houston (June 21, 1854 – June 26, 1941)

Oldest Age While Serving: 87 years old
 State: Texas
Years Served: April 21, 1941 – June 26, 1941

Andrew-Houston

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Andrew Houston is best known as the son of the famous Texas hero and statesman Sam Houston, who was the President of the Republic of Texas – Andrew’s middle name is Jackson and he was named for his father’s mentor President Andrew Jackson. Houston studied law and had various careers including serving as a clerk of the Dallas federal court, a colonel in the Texas National Guard, and U.S. Marshal for the eastern district of Texas.

He unsuccessfully ran for Governor of Texas in 1892 as a Republican candidate and was also a Prohibition Party candidate for Governor in 1910 and 1918. In 1941, Houston was appointed by Texas Governor W. Lee O’Daniel to temporarily serve as Senator after John Morris Sheppard died in office. Houston joined the Senate as a Democrat, making him the oldest man to enter the Senate, and filled the seat from April 1941 until his death a few months later – his 87th birthday took place a few days before he died.


5. Rebecca Felton (June 10, 1835 – January 24, 1930)

Oldest Age While Serving: 87 years old
 State: Georgia
Years Served: November 21, 1922 – November 22, 1922 (1 day)

Rebecca-Felton

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Rebecca Felton is being included on this list as she was 87 years old during her one day tenure as the U.S. Senator of Georgia. Although Felton only served for one day, she was officially sworn in, which makes her the first woman to be seated in the Senate. Felton was appointed to fill the vacant senatorial seat when Senator Thomas E. Watson prematurely died.

Governor Thomas W. Hardwick, who was a candidate for the next general election to the Senate, wanted someone who was not a threat to him in the upcoming special election to temporarily fill the seat. Hardwick’s plan did not work and Walter F. George won the special election and he allowed her to be sworn in rather than take his Senate seat immediately – George was officially sworn in the next day. Felton was a prominent society woman who advocated for prison reform, women’s suffrage, and educational modernization, but was also a slave owner who openly supported lynching.


4. Carl Hayden (October 2, 1877 – January 25, 1972)

Oldest Age While Serving: 91 years old
 State: Arizona
Years Served: March 4, 1927 – January 3, 1969

Carl-Hayden

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Carl Hayden was Arizona’s first U.S. Representative, serving for eight terms before becoming the Senator of Arizona. Hayden was the first Senator to serve seven terms and at one point, he was the longest-serving member of Congress – he is now the third longest-serving member.

He was known for backing legislation dealing with public lands, mining, reclamation, and other projects affecting the Western United States; he also played a key part in creating the funding formula for the federal highway system. Hayden was highly regarded by other members of Congress as he assisted many projects for other senators.

He was dubbed the “Silent Senator” as he did not speak much on the Senate floor but had great influence in committee meetings and Senate cloakroom discussions.


3. Robert Byrd (November 20, 1917 – June 28, 2010)

Oldest Age While Serving: 92 years old
 State: West Virginia
Years Served: January 3, 1959 – June 28, 2010

Robert-Byrd

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Robert Byrd (born Cornelius Calvin Sale Jr.) is best known as the longest-serving U.S. Senator, he served for 51 years in the Senate until his death in 2010 at age 92. At the time of his death, Byrd was also the longest-serving member of the U.S. Congress – he also served in the House of Representatives – with a combined total tenure in Congress of 57 years. His record was later broken by John Dingell who served for 59 years.

During the 1940s, Byrd was briefly a member of the Ku Klux Klan, but he eventually left the group and later in his life, Byrd said that joining the KKK was his greatest mistake.

Although Byrd was a Democrat, early on in his career he was a part of the wing of the Democratic Party that opposed desegregation and civil rights. He joined in a filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and voted against the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but he voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

Byrd eventually rose to a prominent position within Congress – he served as secretary of the Senate Democratic Caucus, Senate Majority Whip, Senate Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader, and President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate.


2. Theodore F. Green (October 2, 1867 – May 19, 1966)

Oldest Age While Serving: 93 years old
 State: Rhode Island
Years Served: January 3, 1937 – January 3, 1961

Theodore-Green

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Theodore F. Green was a Democrat who served as the Senator of Rhode Island for over 20 years. Until Strom Thurmond broke his record, Green was the oldest U.S. senator ever, retiring at age 93. Before he became Senator in 1937, Green served as the 57th Governor of Rhode Island from 1933 – 1937.

Green was known for being very loyal to the Democratic presidents he served under, but he was also one of the few northern Democrats to show loyalty to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican. He was also a strong supporter of internationalism and opposed the Nazi expansion in Europe. Throughout his career as a senator, Green supported civil rights legislation.


1. Strom Thurmond (December 5, 1902 – June 26, 2003)

Oldest Age While Serving: 100 years old
 State: South Carolina
Years Served: December 24, 1954 – April 4, 1956; and November 7, 1956 – January 3, 2003

Strom-Thurmond

photo source:Wikimedia Commons

Strom Thurmond is known for being the oldest person to ever serve as a U.S. Senator, he was 100 years old when he retired from Congress in early 2003 – he died later that same year. Early in his political career when he served as Governor of South Carolina (as a Democrat), Thurmond was fairly progressive as he supported fair wages for women, aid for black educational institutions, and rent control.

However, he opposed the Democratic Party’s Civil Rights program and led the walkout of Southern Democrats at the 1948 convention. He served as a Democrat during his first term as Senator but switched to the Republican Party in 1956. After that, he continued to be re-elected for several decades and emerged as a prominent leader of a more conservative Republican Party – he is known for his pro-segregation policies.

After his death, it was revealed that he had a secret biracial daughter who was born in 1925, she was 78 when she revealed that Thurmond was her father.

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