The third oldest living former United States Senator is a New Jerseyan, George Smathers, who turns 93 on November 13. Smathers was born in Atlantic City, the nephew of William Smathers, a Democrat who defeated U.S. Senator Hamilton Kean (the great-grandfather of Thomas Kean, Jr.) in 1936.
George Smathers grew up in Florida, served as a lawyer for the Truman administration, and at age 33 won election to the U.S. House of Representatives -- part of the 1946 freshman class that included John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.
Smathers ran for the U.S. Senate in 1950, defeating incumbent Claude Pepper in an epic Democratic primary. Time Magazine reported that during that campaign, Smathers asked a rural Florida audience: "Are you aware that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law, and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper before his marriage habitually practiced celibacy." Smathers strongly denied making those comments and offered a $10,00 reward to anyone who could prove he said it. No one could. Smathers retired in 1968 to pursue a more lucrative career as a Washington lobbyist.
The oldest living former U.S. Senator is Clifford Hansen, a Republican from Wyoming, who turns 94 in October. Robert Stafford, a Vermont Republican who was born three months before Smathers. Smathers is the only surviving member of the U.S. Senate during Harry Truman's presidency.
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