10 Oldest U.S. Congressmen

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There is often some confusion over the difference between a congressman and a senator. Although the dictionary says that a congressman is anyone who serves in Congress, which includes both the House and the Senate, when people are talking about a congressman they’re typically referring to a member of the House. This is the definition we have chosen to use and every congressman and congresswoman on this list is a House Representative.

Like the Presidency, there is an age requirement to become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives – a person needs to be at least 25 years old. Due to this, most people do not run for a seat in the House until they have established some other career and gain political experience. In more recent years, the average age of House member is about 57 years old. All of the congressmen on this were over 80 years old while they served and the oldest was over 90!

10. Roscoe Bartlett (June 3, 1926 – Present)

Oldest Age While Serving: 86 years, 7 months
Political Party:  Republican
State:  Maryland
Tenure:  January 3, 1993 – January 3, 2013 (20 years)

Roscoe Bartlettphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Toward the end of his tenure on the U.S. House of Representatives, Roscoe Bartlett was the second oldest serving member behind Ralph Hall (who is the first entry on this list). Bartlett studied anatomy, physiology, and zoology in college and earned a master’s degree in physiology in 1948. After graduating, he taught anatomy, physiology, and zoology at the University of Maryland.

Bartlett initially tried to run for the Senate in 1980, but lost with only 7% of the vote in the Republican primary. He then made his first attempt for a seat in the House in 1982, but lost in the general election against the incumbent Democratic candidate. Bartlett was finally elected in 1992 and went on to serve on the House for 20 years.

9. Joseph Gurney Cannon (May 7, 1836 – November 12, 1926)

Oldest Age While Serving: 86 years, 10 months
Political Party:  Republican
State:  Illinois
Tenure:  March 4, 1873 – March 3, 1891; March 4, 1893 – March 3, 1913; and March 4, 1915 – March 3, 1923 (total of 46 years)

Joseph Gurney Cannonphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Joseph Gurney Cannon was the first member of Congress ever to serve for more than 40 years. He served, non-consecutively, for 46 years in the House. Cannon is also the longest-serving Republican member of the House as well as the longest-serving Republican to never change his party affiliation. In addition to all of his records in Congress, Cannon was the subject of the very first Time magazine cover from March 3, 1923.

Cannon was the Speaker of the House from 1903 – 1911 and many people consider him to be the most dominant Speaker in U.S. history. He was so powerful that he often controlled debates and used his power to effectively control every aspect of the House’s agenda. Johnson’s unchecked power led Nebraska Representative George Norris and 42 progressive Republicans as well as the entire delegation of 149 Democrats to revolt. They successfully removed Johnson from the Rules Committee and stripped him of his power to assign committees.

8. Sam Johnson (October 11, 1930 – Present)

Oldest Age While Serving: 87 years, 4 months
Political Party:  Republican
State:  Texas
Tenure:  May 8, 1991 – Present (currently 26 years, 9 months, 13 days)

Sam Johnsonphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Sam Johnson is currently the second oldest sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to becoming a member of the House in 1991, Johnson had a long military career, serving for 29 years. He is a retired Air Force Colonel and was a decorated fighter pilot in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. During the Vietnam War, Johnson was a prisoner of war for nearly seven years. As a POW, Johnson was one of 11 prisoners known as the Alcatraz Gang because they were separated from other prisoners for their resistance to their captors.

Johnson was elected to the House in 1991 during a special election and he since become known as an ardent conservative. After being sworn in for his 14th term, Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection in the 2018 midterm elections.

7. Louise Slaughter (August 14, 1929 – Present)

Oldest Age While Serving: 88 years, 6 months
Political Party:  Democratic
State:  New York
Tenure:  January 3, 1987 – Present (currently at 31 years, 1 month, 18 days)

Louise Slaughterphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

As of 2018, Louise Slaughter is currently the oldest sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives – she is also the only congresswoman on this list. Prior to her political career, Slaughter earned her degrees in microbiology and public health and went to work for Procter & Gamble doing market research.

At this time, Slaughter was involved in community groups like Scouting in New York and the League of Women Voters. She became concerned with local political and community issues and decided to run for the New York State Assembly in 1982. Slaughter narrowly won in the 1986 midterm election and was elected to the House. She was Chairwoman of the House Rules Committee from 2007 – 2011 and has served as ranking minority member of the Committee since 2011.

6. John Dingell (July 8, 1926 – Present)

Oldest Age While Serving: 88 years, 6 months
Political Party:  Democratic
State:  Michigan
Tenure:  December 13, 1955 – January 3, 2015 (59 years, 21 days)

John Dingellphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

John Dingell currently holds the record for the longest Congressional (both the House and the Senate) tenure in American history. He served for over 59 years and retired when he was 88 years old. Dingell was also the longest-serving Dean of the U.S. House of Representatives (from January 3, 1995 – January 3, 2015). He was elected to the House in 1955, succeeding his father John Dingell Sr., who held the seat for 22 years.

Along with Ralph Hall, who is also on this list and retired in 2015, Dingell was one of the last World War II veterans serving in Congress. When Dingell decided to retire, his wife Debbie Dingell announced that she planned to run for his seat. She won the election and is currently representing Michigan’s 12th district.

5. John Conyers (May 16, 1929 – Present)

Oldest Age While Serving: 88 years, 7 months
Political Party:  Democratic
State:  Michigan
Tenure:  January 3, 1965 – December 5, 2017 (52 years, 11 months, 2 days)

John Conyersphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

John Conyers was not only one of the oldest congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives, but he was also the third longest-serving House member ever. He was in the House for nearly 52 years and retired at the age of 88. Before he started his political career, Conyers served in the Korean War and later became active in the civil rights movement. As a member of the House, Conyers co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus in 1969 and eventually became one of the most liberal members of Congress.

Although Conyers strived to do good while in office, he was at the center of several controversies, including forcing his aides to babysit and chauffeur his children as well as several sexual harassment allegation, which ended his career. His mounting sex scandals led Conyers to resign from Congress on December 5, 2017.

4. Robert L. Doughton (November 7, 1863 – October 1, 1954)

Oldest Age While Serving: 89 years, 2 months
Political Party:  Democratic
State:  North Carolina
Tenure:  March 4, 1911 – January 3, 1953 (41 years, 9 months, 30 days)

Robert L. Doughtonphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Robert L. Doughton was another member of the U.S. House of Representatives to serve at 89 years old. He was the 20th longest-serving member of the House and the longest-serving member ever from North Carolina. In addition to being a politician, Doughton was a prosperous banker and farmer, which earned him the nickname Farmer Bob. He owned over 5,000 acres of land and raised prized Hereford and Holstein cows. Doughton was also the owner and president of Deposit Savings and Loan Bank in North Carolina.

For 18 years Doughton served as the Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means. In this role, he oversaw the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935. He was also responsible for the creation of Blue Ridge Parkway, America’s most-traveled scenic highway. Doughton is probably best known for introducing the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

3. Sidney R. Yates (August 27, 1909 – October 5, 2000)

Oldest Age While Serving: 89 years, 5 months
Political Party:  Democratic
State:  Illinois
Tenure:  January 3, 1949 – January 3, 1969; January 3, 1965 – January 3, 1999 (total of 48 years)

Sidney R. Yatesphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Sidney R. Yates was just a few months shy of being the second oldest congressman. He is the longest-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the state of Illinois and the seventh longest-serving in the House overall. Before he became a politician, Yates played semiprofessional basketball and practiced law. He was also a World War II veteran. Yates’ career in the House was briefly interrupted after he did not succeed in his run for the Senate in 1962. He went to work for the United Nations for a year before returning to the House after the 1964 election.

Throughout his career, Yates served on the Appropriations Committee, where he supported environmental programs and the National Endowment for the Arts. He also worked hard to preserve federal funding for Natural Heritage Preservation programs, and to establish the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

2. Charles Manly Stedman (January 29, 1841 – September 23, 1930)

Oldest Age While Serving: 89 years, 7 months
Political Party:  Democratic
State:  North Carolina
Tenure:  March 4, 1911 – September 23, 1930 (19 years, 6 months, 19 days)

Charles Manly Stedmanphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Prior to 2012, Charles Manly Stedman held the record for being the oldest member ever of the U.S. House of Representatives. Stedman first got into politics as a delegate to the 1880 Democratic National Convention. Before this, he fought in the Civil War and later became a lawyer and set up his practice in Wilmington, North Carolina.

From 1885 – 1889, Stedman served as the fifth Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina. He unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic nomination for Governor of North Carolina in 1888. Stedman was first elected to the House in 1910 and served until his death in 1930 at the age of 89. He was the last veteran of the Civil War, from either side, to serve in Congress.

1. Ralph Hall (May 3, 1923 – Present)

Oldest Age While Serving: 91 years, 8 months
Political Party:  Democratic (1950 – 2004); Republican (since 2004)
State:  Texas
Tenure:  January 3, 1981 – January 3, 2015 (34 years)

Ralph Hallphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Ralph Hall is the oldest congressman to ever serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition to being the oldest serving member of Congress, Hall was the oldest person ever elected to a House term, the oldest House member to cast a vote, and one of the last two World War II veterans serving in Congress.

For much of his political career, Hall described himself as “an old-time conservative Democrat” – in fact, he was one of the most conservative Democrats to ever serve in the House. For years, rumors persisted that Hall would switch parties because he often voted with Republicans. He eventually changed over to the Republican Party in 2004. Hall’s last bid for a seat in the House took place in 2014; he lost in the Republican primary and finally retired.

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