Jim Inhofe, former US senator from Oklahoma, dies at 89

ByMariam Khan ABCNews logo
Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Jim Inhofe, the longest-serving U.S. senator from Oklahoma, has died, his family announced. He was 89.

Inhofe died early Tuesday after he suffered a stroke over the July 4 holiday, his family said in a statement.

"He passed peacefully, surrounded by his wife Kay, and his three surviving children, Molly, Jimmy and Katy," the statement said. "His son Perry passed away several years ago in a private airplane accident in Tulsa."

The Republican congressman served in the U.S. Senate from 1994 until his retirement in 2023. During his time in office, he chaired the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the Armed Services Committee.

He was known for his opposition to climate science as it pertained to human-caused climate change, and famously brought a snowball onto the floor of the Senate in 2015, suggesting it was evidence that global warming is not real.

Inhofe was also a steadfast opponent of LGBT rights legislation, proposing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, voting against adding sexual orientation to hate crimes laws, and opposing a law to prohibit job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In 2006, he introduced the Inhofe Amendment, an amendment to an immigration bill that sought to curtail multilingual services provided by the federal government and to make English the national language of the U.S. The amendment passed the Senate but failed in the House.

Inhofe also served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987 to 1994.

Prior to serving in Congress, Inhofe served in various elected offices in Oklahoma, including in the state Senate, the state House of Representatives, and as the mayor of Tulsa.

James Mountain Inhofe was born in Des Moines, Iowa, on Nov. 17, 1934, and moved with his family to Oklahoma as a child. He served in the U.S. Army from 1957 to 1958 and obtained a degree in economics from the University of Tulsa. He worked for his father's life insurance company before entering politics.

The former senator was an avid aviator and introduced the Pilot's Bill of Rights in 2012. The bill, passed by Congress and signed into law by then-President Barack Obama, expanded the rights of pilots in FAA investigations and enforcement actions.

"I was saddened to learn this morning that our longtime former colleague, and my good friend, Jim Inhofe, passed away overnight," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Tuesday. "For nearly three decades, the Senator for Oklahoma lived up to his unique and distinguished middle name: Jim was a Mountain of a man."

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