Washington colleagues remember former Senator Jim Inhofe

Washington colleagues remember former Senator Jim Inhofe

Former colleagues of U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe paid tribute to the late Oklahoma senator on Tuesday, praising him as a dedicated public servant who was guided by strong conservative values ​​and believed equally strongly in the value of compromise. Senator Inhofe died early Tuesday morning in Tulsa, days after suffering a stroke.

Many Americans may remember Inhofe only for his very public criticism of the science underlying climate change, but those who worked with him and knew him say his legacy is far broader and more impactful.

“He was a remarkable man, a man of great principles,” Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

Senator Reed, a Democrat and current chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, worked with Inhofe on defense policy and funding for more than 20 years. While the two men didn’t always see eye to eye, Reed says Inhofe didn’t let that stop him from completing his job and supporting American men and women in uniform.

“He always sought a principled compromise,” Reed said. “He didn’t give up his principles, but he was able to find a way to reconcile different opinions and views and achieve something very positive for the nation, especially the armed forces.”

Inhofe retired from the Senate in January 2023, citing concerns for the health of his wife, Kay, as well as his own. Markwayne Mullin was elected to serve the remainder of his term.

Mullin says Oklahomans often thank him for “following in Senator Inhofe’s footsteps,” but that’s a misnomer.

“I always tell people I can’t follow in Jim Inhofe’s footsteps,” Senator Mullin (R-OK) said in an interview. “He paved the way for me to build on, but no one can follow in his footsteps.”

When Inhofe resigned, Rep. Frank Lucas became the longest-serving member of the state’s delegation. In a statement Tuesday, Lucas said of Inhofe, “Watching and learning under his leadership has only strengthened my sense of duty, and I have always used his character as a guide in my endeavors.”

Each member of the delegation issued a statement mourning Inhofe’s death. Mullin paid tribute to him on the Senate floor late Tuesday afternoon, and Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) planned to hold a series of tributes on the Senate floor Wednesday morning.

“At this moment, we are overcome by a sense of loss,” said Senator Reed, “but also by the great privilege of having known a great gentleman and a great American.”