William Thad Cochran (born December 7, 1937) is the senior United States Senator from Mississippi and a member of the Republican Party. First elected to the Senate in 1978, he is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and was its chairman and 2005 to 2007.
He was born in Pontotoc, Mississippi, to William Holmes Cochran and Emma Grace (nee Berry), a school principal and a teacher, respectively. His family settled in Hinds County, Mississippi, home of the state capital, Jackson, in 1946 after a few moves around the northern part of the state. Cochran still lives in Jackson today. Cochran earned Eagle Scout as a youth and was awarded the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award as an adult. He graduated valedictorian from Byram High School near Jackson and received a B.A. degree from the University of Mississippi with a major in psychology and a minor in political science in 1959. There he joined the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity and was on the cheerleading squad (fellow senator Trent Lott was also an Ole Miss cheerleader). After a time in the United States Navy (1959–1961), he attended the University of Mississippi School of Law, was elected to the Phi Kappa Phi honor society and graduated in 1965. He then practiced law for seven years. He married Rose Clayton on June 6, 1964; the couple has two children, Clayton and Kate. Cochran grew up as a Democrat, but became a Republican sometime in the mid-to-late 1960s. He served as head of Richard Nixon's Mississippi campaign in 1968.
In 1972, Congressman Charles H. Griffin of Mississippi's 3rd congressional district decided not to run for a third full term. Cochran won the Republican nomination for the Jackson-based district, which was renumbered as Mississippi's 4th congressional district after redistricting. He defeated Democratic state senator Ellis Bodron by just under four points. He was handily reelected in 1974, a year in which anger over the Watergate scandal caused several Republicans to lose their seats.
He was reelected by an even larger margin in 1976. Until 1989, Cochran served alongside Democrat John C. Stennis, the longest-serving Senator in Mississippi's history. As of 2010 he is the sixth-longest currently serving Senator, and the third longest-serving Republican. Cochran served as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference (caucus) from 1991 to 1996, and is its only former chair currently in the Senate; he chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee from 2003 to 2005. In 2005, he was appointed as chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, making him the first Republican from a former Confederate state to chair the committee. He is currently that committee's ranking Republican. In 2005 he was one of nine senators who voted against the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibited "inhumane treatment of prisoners, including prisoners at Guantanamo Bay". The others, all Republicans, were Wayne Allard, Kit Bond, Tom Coburn, Jeff Sessions, Jim Inhofe, Pat Roberts, John Cornyn and Ted Stevens. In March 2009 his former aide, Ann Copland, pled guilty to swapping legislative favors for event tickets and other gifts from lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Copland worked for Cochran for 29 years. Cochran has not been indicted for any charges in connection to Jack Abramoff. Cochran opposed President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009, and he voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. In April 2010, it was reported that Cochran finished at the top of the Citizens Against Government Waste's list of congressional earmarks, having requested a total of $490 million in earmarks.
June 7th, 2011