Former Oklahoma US Senator Jim Inhofe Dies at 89

Jacob Burg
By Jacob Burg
July 9, 2024Politics
Former Oklahoma US Senator Jim Inhofe Dies at 89
Rep. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, in Washington on May 7, 2020. (Al Drago/Getty Images)

Former Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the longest-serving U.S. senator from Oklahoma and former member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, died on July 9 at the age of 89.

He died after suffering from a stroke over the July Fourth holiday, his family said in a statement.

The Senate GOP announced Mr. Inhofe’s death in a post on the platform X, calling the pilot and aviation advocate an “incredible leader and great man.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called Mr. Inhofe a “good friend.”

“For nearly three decades, the Senator for Oklahoma lived up to his unique and distinguished middle name: Jim was a Mountain of a man,” Mr. McConnell in a statement on his website, adding that Mr. Inhofe’s “diligent stewardship of massive infrastructure projects transformed life across the Heartland.”

“His relentless advocacy for American energy dominance unlocked new prosperity across the country. And his laser focus on growing and modernizing the U.S. military strengthened the security of the entire free world,” the GOP leader remarked.

Andrew Wheeler, former staff member for the senator and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, also posted on X.

“He was a devout Christian and family man. He was also devoted to his former staff, who he considered his extended family,” Mr. Wheeler wrote.

In 1991, Mr. Inhofe tested his pilot skills by flying around the world to retrace a route taken 60 years earlier by pilot Wiley Post.

Before being elected to the Senate in 1994, Mr. Inhofe served in the House of Representatives for eight years after serving as mayor of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second-largest city.

He retired from the Senate in 2023 at age 88, after serving 28 years, citing long-term side effects from COVID-19.

Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) honored Mr. Inhofe in a statement on July 9, saying that he is keeping the late senator’s family in his prayers.

“Senator Jim Inhofe was a dear friend and mentor, a titan in Oklahoma, and a highly effective leader in D.C.,” Mr. Hern said.

“Jim spent his life in service to his country, both in uniform and in the halls of Congress. He will always be remembered as a fighter, especially for our military service members.”

Mr. Hern added that he, along with fellow Oklahomans and the senator’s family and friends, will “mourn the loss of a great man.”

When Mr. Inhofe first announced his retirement from the Senate in 2022, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) issued a news release honoring the nearly three-decade-long senator, citing his “significant” contributions to general aviation.

The senator was born in Des Moines, Iowa, on Nov. 17, 1934, but grew up in Tulsa, where he became mayor in 1978 and held the office for three terms until 1984.

He served in the Army between 1956 and 1958, before earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Tulsa in 1959.

The senator’s political career began with his election to the Oklahoma state House in 1966. Two years later, he won a seat in the state Senate and unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1974 and the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976.

Mr. Inhofe was finally elected to the House of Representatives in 1986, representing Oklahoma’s First District until 1994. When former Sen. David Boren (D-Okla.) resigned to serve as president of the University of Oklahoma, Mr. Inhofe ran to replace Mr. Boren in a 1994 special election, defeating Rep. David McCurdy (D-Okla.).

The aviation advocate ran for his first full term in the Senate in 1996 and was reelected again in 2002, 2008, 2014, and 2020.

While serving as Oklahoma’s senior senator, Mr. Inhofe supported the state’s five military installations and often flew himself back and forth to Washington for Senate business. He also advocated for using federal money to fund local road and bridge projects.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) also memorialized his former Senate colleague in a post on X, saying he was “grateful” to serve alongside Mr. Inhofe.

“Jim Inhofe was a dedicated public servant, and his leadership as chairman of the Armed Services Committee was key to advancing our national defense,” Mr. Romney said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times