10 Oldest U.S. Senators that Ever Lived (Updated 2021)

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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.

As of February 2021 this list is as accurate as possible and will be updated as needed.

10. Richard Shelby (May 6, 1934 – Present)

Oldest Age While Serving: currently 86 years, 8 months, 28 days
State: Alabama
Party: Republican (was Democratic until 1994)
Years Served: January 3, 1987 – Present (34 years, 1 month and counting)

Richard Shelbyphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

 

Richard Shelby is the third oldest member of the current U.S. Senate at nearly 87 years of age. Shelby is the longest-serving Senator from Alabama, having surpassed John Sparkman’s previous record back in March 2019.

Shelby first became a Senator in 1987, winning a tight race as a Democrat (he was one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress). He was re-elected again in 1992 although Bill Clinton did not win the state of Alabama in the Presidential Election. However, in 1994, following the Republican Revolution, Shelby switched his party affiliation and has remained a Republican since then.

Prior to serving as a U.S. Senator, Shelby was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for a decade and before that, he was a member of the Alabama Senate.

Did You Know?

As a very conservative Democrat, Richard Shelby a member of the boll weevils, a group of moderate to conservative-leaning Democrats who often worked with Republican President Ronald Reagan on defense issues.


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

Oldest Age While Serving: 87 years, 5 days
State: Texas
Party: Democratic
Years Served: April 21, 1941 – June 26, 1941 (3 months, 5 days)

Andrew Houstonphoto 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. 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 Part 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.

Did You Know?

Andrew Houston’s middle name is Jackson and he was named for his father’s mentor President Andrew Jackson.


8. Chuck Grassley (September 7, 1933 – Present)

Oldest Age While Serving: currently 87 years, 4 months, 17 days
State: Iowa
Party: Republican
Years Served: January 3, 1981 – Present (40 years, 1 month and counting)

Chuck Grassleyphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Chuck Grassley is currently the second oldest sitting member of the Senate, having been born a few months after Dianne Feinstein. In addition to being one of the oldest living senators, Grassley is one of the longest-serving at over 39 years.

Before becoming a Senator, Grassley served in the Iowa House of Representatives and then the U.S. House of Representatives. He has been in government since 1959 (61 years)! After Orrin Hatch retired in 2019, Grassley became the most senior Republican in the Senate.

Did You Know?

Chuck Grassley has served as the president pro tempore of the Senate since 2019 and is currently third in the line of presidential selection (after the vice president and speaker of the House).


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

Oldest Age While Serving: 87 years, 5 months, 12 days
State: Georgia
Party: Democratic
Years Served: November 21, 1922 – November 22, 1922 (1 day)

 Rebecca Feltonphoto 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.

Did You Know?

Despite advocating for women’s rights, Rebecca Felton was a slave owner who openly supported lynching.


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

Oldest Age While Serving: currently 87 years, 7 months, 12 days
State: California
Party: Democratic
Years Served: November 4, 1992 – Present (28 years, 2 months, 30 days and counting)

 Dianne Feinsteinphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Dianne Feinstein is the U.S. Senator of California and currently the oldest sitting member of the Senate at nearly 87 years old. Feinstein 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, Feinstein 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. Feinstein is also the first and currently only woman to have chaired the Senate Rules Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence. Following the retirement of Barbara Mikulski in January 2017, Feinstein became the longest-serving female U.S. Senator still serving in the Senate.

Did You Know?

Currently, Dianne Feinstein is the only woman to have presided over a U.S. presidential inauguration (President Barack Obama’s in 2009).


5. Daniel Inouye (September 7, 1924 – December 17, 2012)

Oldest Age While Serving: 88 years, 3months, 10 days
 State: Hawaii
Party: Democratic
Years Served: January 3, 1963 – December 17, 2012 (49 years, 11 months, 15 days)

Daniel Inouyephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Daniel Inouye is the second longest-serving senator in U.S. history, serving for nearly 50 years before he died while in office in 2012. Inouye had continuously been re-elected as the Senator of Hawaii since he first entered office in 1963. At the time of his death, Inouye was serving as the Senate’s President Pro Tempore, a position he first held in 2010.

Inouye was Japanese American and was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. Although he was only in high school at the time, Inouye enlisted in U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team in late 1942 following the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Inouye’s unit was segregated and only created after Army lifted its ban on Japanese-Americans. Following World War II, Inouye attended college to study political science. Inouye began his political career in 1953 when he was elected to the Hawaii territorial House of Representatives.

Did You Know?

Daniel Inouye lost his right arm to a grenade during World War II. For his service and bravery, Inouye received the Medal of Honor, which was only awarded to him in 2000.


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

Oldest Age While Serving: 91 years, 3 months, 1 day
 State: Arizona
Party: Democratic
Years Served: March 4, 1927 – January 3, 1969 (41 years, 9 months, 30 days)

Carl Haydenphoto 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.

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

Did You Know?

Carl Hayden was known as 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, 7 months, 8 days
 State: West Virginia
Party: Democratic
Years Served: January 3, 1959 – June 28, 2010 (51 years, 5 months, 26 days)

Robert Byrdphoto 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. Byrd’s record was later broken by John Dingell who served for 59 years.

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.

Did You Know?

During the 1940s, Robert 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.


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

Oldest Age While Serving: 93 years, 3 months, 1 day
 State: Rhode Island
Party: Democratic
Years Served: January 3, 1937 – January 3, 1961 (24 years)

Theodore F. Greenphoto 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.

Did You Know?

Unlike most politicians, Theodore Green was a lifelong bachelor and never had any kids.


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

Oldest Age While Serving: 100 years, 29 days
 State: South Carolina
Party: Democratic (before 1964) and Republican (from 1964 – 2003)
Years Served: December 24, 1954 – April 4, 1956; and November 7, 1956 – January 3, 2003 (47 years, 5 months, 8 days)

Strom Thurmondphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Strom Thurmond is known for being the oldest United States Senator ever, serving until he was 100 years old. Thurmond died a few months after he retired. 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.

Thurmond initially 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 secret biracial who was born in 1925, she was 78 when she revealed that Thurmond was her father.

Did You Know?

At the 1948 convention, Strom Thurmond led the walkout of Southern Democrats in opposition of the Democrat’s Civil Rights program.


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