Oldest-Ever Member of US House Dies at 95

Ralph Hall started out as a Democrat in Texas, switched to the GOP after 12 terms
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 7, 2019 2:47 PM CST
Oldest-Ever Member of US House Dead at 95
In this Jan. 5, 2011, file photo, then House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio participates in a ceremonial swearing in with Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Former Texas Rep. Ralph Hall, the oldest-ever member of the US House and a man who claimed to have once sold cigarettes and Coca-Cola to the bank-robbing duo of Bonnie and Clyde in Dallas, has died. He was 95. Ed Valentine, Hall's longtime strategist, said the Republican and World War II veteran died at his home in Rockwall on Thursday morning, the AP reports. Asked about a cause of death, Valentine simply cited Hall's age, saying he hadn't been suffering from any known long term ailments. Hall was 91 when he was defeated in a 2014 Republican primary runoff election by John Ratcliffe, a former US attorney less than half Hall's age who was well-schooled in digital and data-heavy campaigning. Ratcliffe ran unopposed in the deeply red district that November.

Getting ousted by his own party came a decade after Hall became a Republican as Texas moved farther to the right. Hall served 12 terms in Congress as a Democrat but announced in January 2004 that he'd made the switch, backed by his friend, George W. Bush. Hall, who flew Hellcat fighters during World War II, was known in Congress for promoting NASA and energy production. Hailing from the town of Rockwall, he was fond of saying that he voted with his party often but always voted with his district. But he was probably most popular for mailing or personally doling out pennies fitted with a special silver band bearing his name. An avid jogger who began his days with 2-mile runs, Hall marked Memorial Day 2012—when he was 89 years old—by skydiving to honor American service members. That Christmas he became the oldest member of Congress' lower chamber, breaking the record set by US Rep. Charles Manly Stedman of North Carolina, who died in office when he was 89 years, 7 months, and 25 days old. (Click for more, including what Hall had to say about Bonnie and Clyde.)

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