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Strom Thurmond Becomes Longest-Serving US Senator


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 25) - Defying the limits of endurance, Strom Thurmond Sunday became the longest-serving U.S. senator in history.

Thurmond was first elected to the Senate in 1954. At 94-years-old, he is already the oldest serving member of Congress.

Thurmond says he hasn't stayed in office to set a record -- he's stayed to serve the people of South Carolina.

Thurmond will be in his home state today, helping the town of Johnston celebrate its centennial.

"(Thurmond is) an American original, an inspiration to millions, and one of the most enduring figures in American political history."

-- Bob Dole

Indeed, the courtly South Carolinian's 42-year tenure represents one-fifth of the Senate's own 208-year history.

Despite his slowing pace, the conservative Republican was easily re-elected to an eighth term in November 1996. He beat a Democrat less than half his age who was born the year Thurmond won election as a write-in candidate in 1954.

Thurmond says he plans to finish out this term, taking him to January 2003. That means if his recipe for longevity -- fresh fruit, daily exercise and "an optimistic attitude toward life" -- holds, he could celebrate his 100th birthday under the Capitol dome December 5, 2002.

Dole, who made an unsuccessful bid to become the oldest newly elected president at age 73, in a statement said: "May he extend his record as long as he wishes, and knowing Strom, he's got another 41 years of service in him -- at least."

Thurmond, already the oldest man ever to serve as senator, he now surpasses the length of service record set by Arizona Democrat Carl Hayden January 2, 1969. He died after holding office 41 years and 10 months.

The overall record for Congress resides in the House, where the late Rep. Jamie Whitten of Mississippi served for 53 years, two months and 13 days. Thurmond would have to serve another full term after this and live to 106 to beat that.

Thurmond plans on marking the milestone Sunday with a speech in Johnston, South Carolina, in Edgefield County, where he was born in 1902.

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