United States Senator from Mississippi
December 27, 1978 – April 1, 2018
|Preceded by||James Oliver Eastland|
|Succeeded by||Cindy Hyde-Smith|
U.S. Representative for Mississippi's 4th congressional districtssissippi
January 3, 1973 – December 26, 1978
|Preceded by||Gillespie V. "Sonny" Montgomery|
|Succeeded by||John Clifton Hinson|
|Born|| December 7, 1937|
|Died|| May 30, 2019 (aged 81)|
|Spouse(s)|| (1) Rose Clayton Cochran (married 1964-2014, her death)|
(2) Kay Webber (married 2015)
William Thaddeus Cochran, known as Thad Cochran (December 7, 1937 – May 30, 2019) was the former senior Republican United States Senator from Mississippi. A RINO in his later senatorial years, Cochran was serving his fifth term in office when he resigned in the spring of 2018 because of serious health issues. He died a year later.
Cochran won the 2014 Republican primary against conservative Tea Party movement challenger and state Senator Chris McDaniel, albeit with the use of ethically questionable yet legal tactics. In the primary, McDaniel led with 49.5 percent but fell short of a majority. Cochran courted influential African-American Democrats to vote in the open runoff election. Using deceitful tactics, Cochran won a majority in the expanded electorate with African American Democrats. Cochran then prevailed in the 2014 general election.
After Cochran's resignation, Chris McDaniel entered the special election to pick a successor, but the interim appointment from Governor Phil Bryant went to former Democrat Cindy Hyde-Smith. Hyde-Smith defeated McDaniel in the general election on November 6, 2018; she then topped Democrat Mike Espy, an African American who served in the Bill Clinton administration, in the special election runoff.
Cochran was born in Pontotoc, near Tupelo in northern Mississippi. His father, William Holmes Cochran, was the principal and his mother, Emma Grace Cochran, a teacher, in schools in Pontotoc, Tippah, and Hinds counties. An Eagle Scout in his youth, Cochran was awarded the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award as an adult. He graduated from Byram High School near the capital city of Jackson and received in 1959 a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Mississippi at Oxford (Ole Miss) with a major in psychology and a minor in political science. Cochran switched to Republican affiliation in the 1960s and went on to serve as Mississippi executive director of Richard M. Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign, which fared poorly in Mississippi, losing to Alabama former Governor George Wallace, running on the American Independent Party label.
In 1972, Cochran was elected to the United States House of Representatives, to replace Democratic Congressman Charles Griffin. In the general election, he defeated the Democrat Ellis Bodron, a state senator from Vicksburg in Warren County. One major factor in Cochran's victory was the gigantic Republican landslide in that year's presidential election, in which Richard Nixon won 49 of 50 states and 78 percent of Mississippi's popular vote. After winning re-election to the House in 1974, he was elected by his colleagues to represent the southern states on the House Republican Policy Committee. He was re-elected to the House of Representatives again in 1976. In both of his races for re-election, Cochran received more than 70 percent of the votes. In 1978, Thad Cochran was elected to the United States Senate becoming the first Republican in over 100 years to win a statewide election in Mississippi. He was re-elected in 1984 in a race with Governor William Winter with more than 60 percent of the votes. In 1990, Cochran was unopposed, and in 1996, he was re-elected to a fourth term with more than 70 percent of the votes. His margin of victory in the 2002 election was an astonishing 85 percent.
In addition to his ranking minority membership of the Appropriations Committee, Cochran served on the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee and the Committee on Rules and Administration.