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Former Sen. Jim Inhofe, who served Oklahoma for 28 years, dead at 89

Inhofe was the longest-serving U.S. senator from Oklahoma.
James Inhofe
Posted at 10:17 AM, Jul 09, 2024

Former U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma has died at the age of 89, according to a former aide who said he had a sudden, unexpected illness over the holiday weekend. He died peacefully with his wife Kay holding his hand, surrounded by his kids Molly, Jimmy and Katy, the aide said. His son Perry died in a plane crash in 2013.

The prominent Republican chaired multiple committees and largely backed GOP policies.

Inhofe was born in Iowa in 1934 and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, with his family in 1942. He grew up in Tulsa and went to Central High School and later graduated from the University of Tulsa. He served in the Army for three years, then started a career at his father's insurance company before beginning his political career.

Inhofe served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives for three years and later in the Oklahoma state Senate for another eight years. He unsuccessfully ran for governor and Congress before serving three terms as mayor of Tulsa.

After his time as mayor, Inhofe served four terms in the U.S. House.

Inhofe was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994, replacing Sen. David Boren, who resigned to become the president of the University of Oklahoma. After winning the 1994 special election, Inhofe won reelection five times, the latest time coming in 2020. He resigned in January 2023.

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While in the Senate, he was chair of the Armed Services Committee from 2018-2021 and chair of the Environment Committee from 2003-2007, and then again from 2015-2017.

Rep. Kevin Hern called Inhofe a mentor.

"Senator Jim Inhofe was a dear friend and mentor, a titan in Oklahoma, and a highly effective leader in DC. Tammy and I are keeping Kay and the rest of the Inhofe family in our prayers," 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. Jim’s legacy of service, leadership, and faith reflect the Oklahoma Standard and the pride he held in his work."

Gov. Kevin Stitt ordered flags on state property at half-staff in his honor.

"Sarah and I are saddened by the news of the passing of Sen. Inhofe and our hearts go out to Kay, their children and grandchildren," Stitt said. "Jim was a generational Oklahoman who relentlessly championed our veterans, never wavered in protecting our values, and a firm believer in the American Dream. Jim will be remembered as a true statesman and public servant— and a fighter for Oklahoma."

Aside from politics, Inhofe was an avid pilot. He got his pilot's license at age 28 and remained an active pilot most of his life.