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Longtime Mississippi Republican sen. Thad Cochran dead at 81

The former Mississippi Republican sen. Thad Cochran, who served in Congress for more than 45 years and took over the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee, died Thursday. He was 81. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

The former Mississippi Republican sen. Thad Cochran, who served in Congress for more than 45 years, and Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, died Thursday. He was 81.

Cochran resigned from the Senate in April 2018, citing health reasons.

According to a statement from the office of his successor, Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Cochran “peacefully early Thursday passed the morning in Oxford.” Services for Cochran are pending, the office said.

On Capitol Hill, Cochran, a Navy veteran, rose through the ranks of the Senate, the committees, the chair of both the resources and agriculture. In 2014, Cochran was almost primary battle with tea party Challenger Chris McDaniel forced out of the office during a brutal Republican.

“Cochran’s family extends its gratitude for the support of the Senator of Mississippians over the years,” Hyde-Smith ‘ s office said in the statement.

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Tributes poured in for Cochran on Thursday.

“If I was a member of the Senate, Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran, who I saw,” tweeted Georgia GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson. “And he brought me and so many others, the very much about the actual service in the U.S. Senate.”

The University of Mississippi, tweeted: “The Ole Miss family has lost a legend with the passing of a great Mississippian and alumnus of the former U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran. His unwavering service and contributions to the University and the state are part of the lasting legacy he leaves behind.”

Cochran was first elected to the Senate in 1978, to win the first Republican in more than 100 years, a country-wide election in Mississippi. When he retired, he was the tenth, was the longest-serving senator in the history of the United States.

Prior to joining the Senate, Cochran’s three terms in the house of representatives served.

At the time of his retirement, Cochran said, “It was a great honor to serve the people of Mississippi and our country. I’ve done my best to make that decision in the best interest of our nation, and my beloved state. My main my voters was a concern in Mississippi.”

Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

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