NPR logo Senate Seniority List: Where Ted Kennedy Stood

Senate Seniority List: Where Ted Kennedy Stood

A question from Greg Jackson of Woodland Hills, Calif.:

You wrote that Edward Kennedy was the third-longest serving U.S. senator in history, after Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Strom Thurmond R/D-SC).

My copy of the Almanac of American Politics indicates that Daniel Inouye
(D-HI) was also elected to the Senate in 1962, as was Ted Kennedy. If they were both sworn into office in January 1963, wouldn't they both would have the same number of years of service? In any case, if Sen. Inouye is the fourth longest serving senator, who is the fifth?

It is true that both Kennedy and Inouye were first elected to the Senate on Nov. 6, 1962. But Kennedy was running in a special election — to fill the seat left vacant when Sen. John F. Kennedy, his brother, was elected president in 1960. (An interim appointee, Benjamin Smith II, was a placeholder, serving until Teddy was old enough to run.)

And because it was a special election, Kennedy was sworn in shortly after the election to fill the seat — on Nov. 7th. That's why he's more senior than Inouye, who is fourth all time.

Number five is Carl Hayden, an Arizona Democrat. He served from 1927 until he retired in Jan. 1969 — 41 years, 9 months, and 30 days.

Article continues after sponsorship

(Number six? Mississippi Democrat John Stennis, who served 41 years, one month, and 29 days.)