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Our History: Featured Alumni/ae: Stennis, John C., 1927

Over the decades our graduates have developed distinguished careers as justices, members of Congress, ambassadors, educators, business people, and community leaders in many fields. This site features some of those late graduates.

Arthur J. Morris Law Library

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John C. Stennis

U.S. Senator from Mississippi

A native of Kemper County, Mississippi, John C. Stennis received a bachelor's degree from Mississippi State University in Starkville (then Mississippi A&M) in 1923 and graduated from the UVA School of Law in 1927, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. While in law school, he won a seat in the Mississippi House of Representatives, in which he served until 1932. Stennis was a prosecutor from 1932 to 1937 and a circuit judge from 1937 to 1947, both for Mississippi's Sixteenth Judicial District.

Upon the death of Senator Theodore Bilbo in 1947, Stennis won the special election to fill the vacancy.  He remained in the Senate until 1989, serving for more than four decades and under eight U.S. Presidents, from Truman to Reagan. Stennis wrote the first Senate ethics code, and was the first chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee. He was unanimously selected President pro tempore of the Senate during the 100th Congress (1987–1989). During his Senate career he chaired, at various times, the Select Committee on Standards and Conduct, and the Armed Services, and Appropriations committees.

After retiring from the Senate in 1989, he returned to Mississippi, where he was a teacher until his death in 1995 at age ninety-three. He remains one of the longest-serving Senators in U.S. history. Because of his work with the Armed Services committee (1969–1980), he had been known as the "Father of America's Modern Navy." Following his death, the U.S. Navy honored him by naming a supercarrier, the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), after him.  He is one of only two members of Congress to be so honored. John C. Stennis is the namesake of the Space Center in Hancock, Mississippi, NASA’s largest rocket engine test facility; the John C. Stennis Lock and Dam near Columbus, Mississippi; the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University; the John C. Stennis Vocational Complex in DeKalb, Mississippi; and the John C. Stennis Memorial Hospital in Dekalb.

John C Stennis Collection at Mississippi State University Libraries

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