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PROGRAM

NATIONAL ANTHEM

United States Naval Academy Band.

INVOCATION

CDR Robert J. Phillips, CHC, USN, Prospective Chaplain, John C. Stennis (CVN-74).

REMARKS AND INTRODUCTION OF DISTINGUISHED GUESTS

W.R. (Pat) Phillips, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer, Newport News Shipbuilding.

REMARKS

Dana G. Mead, President and Chief Operating Officer, Tenneco, Inc.
The Honorable Charles S. Robb, United States Senator, Virginia.
The Honorable Thad Cochran, United States Senator, Mississippi.
The Honorable John W. Warner, United States Senator, Virginia.

REMARKS AND INTRODUCTION OF PRINCIPAL SPEAKER

The Honorable John H. Dalton, Secretary of the Navy.

PRINCIPAL ADDRESS

The Honorable Al Gore, Vice President, United States of America.

INTRODUCTION OF SPONSOR AND MATRON OF HONOR

Mr. Phillips.

CHRISTENING OF JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN-74)

Mrs. Margaret Stennis Womble, Sponsor.
Mrs. Martha A. Stennis, Matron of Honor.

CLOSING REMARKS

Mr. Phillips.

John C. Stennis
Celebration of a Legend

THURSDAY, JUNE 23, 1988,

Sheraton Washington Hotel, Washington, DC. When JOHN STENNIS stepped off the train on the campus of Mississippi A&M in the fall of 1919, it would have been difficult to distinguish him from any other 18-year-old farm boy starting out on a new adventure. He was well-prepared, thanks to the special tutoring provided by his three older sisters who practiced their school-teaching on him. His father, Howell Stennis, taught him responsibility and hard work early-on, making young JOHN feel that even at a very young age his efforts were essential to the operation of the family farm. And his mother, Cornelia Adams Stennis, had trained each of the six Stennis children to do their best and look their best.

No one on campus that rainy September morning could have recognized that young JOHN STENNIS was bound for greatness. But he was beginning even then to form friendships and earn confidence that would give him opportunities for service unsurpassed by anyone in Mississippi history. As his popularity on campus grew, his interest in government and political science grew as well. By the time he graduated in 1923 from what would later become Mississippi State University, he was beginning to show signs of the leadership that would become legend.

A major test of personal fortitude and stamina awaited young STENNIS at the University of Virginia Law School, where he found himself alone and severely challenged by demanding law books and professors. He experienced self-doubt during the first year, then determined that he would prevail, despite the effort required. He excelled, actually memorizing the entire United States Constitution while compiling an academic record that earned him the Phi Beta Kappa key.

His final year in law school was interrupted by the necessity of going home to Kemper County to help his family. It was during this unexpected interlude in his legal studies that JOHN STENNIS was approached by friends and neighbors who urged him to seek an open seat in the Mississippi House of Representatives. He was elected and took the oath of office in January 1928, beginning a career in public service that would span more than sixty years without a single break.

State Representative STENNIS went back to the University of Virginia in the fall of 1928 to complete law school, then returned to DeKalb to open his law practice in a small building across from the courthouse. On Christmas Eve of the following year he married Coy Hines of New Albany, the Kemper County home demonstration agent. Soon they built and moved into the white frame house just south of town which JOHN STENNIS still calls home.

By the time the 1932 election rolled around, the Great Depression had hit hard. JOHN STENNIS reasoned that his best opportunity might lie in seeking the office of district prosecuting attorney. It might be the only way to use

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his hard-earned law degree, since virtually no one could afford to pay a lawyer under the economic hardships imposed by the Depression.

He won election in the six-county district and went to work with vigor. The hours were long and hard, but the rewards were great. People throughout the district came to know JOHN STENNIS as a hard working prosecutor who stood for what was right and would not yield in the face of adversity.

When a death resulted in a vacancy in the circuit judge's seat, many in the district called for appointment of Prosecuting Attorney STENNIS to the post. Governor Hugh White thought STENNIS might be too young for such responsibility at age 37, but the leaders of the local communities throughout the district insisted, and JOHN STENNIS became the youngest circuit judge ever appointed.

Over the next ten years Judge STENNIS became legend in the courthouses of the counties in which he served. He was tough, but he was fair. He earned the respect of all, and his reputation spread well beyond the area as lawyers talked about his knowledge of the law and his skill in handling courtroom situations. Jurors were attracted to his warmth and dignity, and people in communities throughout the district began developing a loyalty for this man who demonstrated a real interest and concern for people.

It did not take him long to decide to run for the United States Senate when Theodore G. Bilbo died in office in 1947. He entered the race quickly and friends from throughout the state went to work immediately seeking support for their candidate, JOHN STENNIS. Fellow alumni from Mississippi State were especially active in the grass roots campaign in which Judge STENNIS promised “to plow a straight furrow, right down to the end of my row.”

Judge STENNIS was the kind of man people believed in, placed confidence in, developed a loyalty to. His supporters did more than just go to the polls to vote for him; they actively worked for his election among their family and friends. It was widespread activity on the part of many that made the difference in his first election to the Senate. It was their strong commitment that gave him the edge over four opponents, including two sitting Congressmen. All of his opponents appeared better known and better financed at the beginning of the campaign.

Those diverse supporters and friends from throughout the state enabled JOHN STENNIS to come to the Senate as a true representative of all the people, free from ties to special interest. He carefully maintained his relationship with the common folk, resisting formation of any type of political organization of his own that might in some way be exclusive. Mississippians of all walks of life considered STENNIS their friend and their representative in Congress, and their loyalty and appreciation for him grew as he developed into a senator's Senator.

When he came to the Senate in 1947, the country was at the beginning of an era of growth and development that would propel the United States to world leadership in virtually every area. Opportunities abounded, and STENNIS set out to bring jobs and development to Mississippi. No one in the history of the State has ever brought so many jobs and opportunities to the people of Mississippi. It is virtually impossible to track the vast number of jobs created through military installations he attracted to Mississippi, through economic development projects he supported, and the industry he helped bring to the state. His very first legislative initiative in the Senate was creation of a federal program to help pave rural roads, an attempt to get the farmers out of the mud. He continually worked for programs that

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would enhance educational opportunities for young people and give local communities the assistance they need to attract growth and development.

But JOHN STENNIS proved himself to be an exceptional Senator on the national level as well. Senate greats, such as the late Senator Richard Russell of Georgia, recognized his bright mind and solid judgment soon after he arrived in Washington. They recognized him as a worker who was willing to give his all for a worthy cause. As he earned the respect of the powers in the Senate, he also gained key committee assignment which allowed him an opportunity to participate directly in decisions of vital importance to Mississippi and the Nation.

His reputation for integrity spread quickly among his colleagues who learned that they could depend on what JOHN STENNIS said. He had courage along with his convictions. He was the first Democrat to take the Senate floor to call for censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy at a politically sensitive period in the Nation's history. He was a natural selection as the first chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee.

The Presidents he served with, from Truman to Reagan, also recognized his honesty and integrity, and all turned to him for help and counsel during difficult times. Every President knew Senator STENNIS' standing with his colleagues, and recognized the influence he carried within the Senate.

As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator STENNIS stood firm for a military second to none. He fought and won many battles on the floor of the Senate in behalf of the American military men and women. As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he insisted on fairness and foresight in determining the Nation's spending priorities. He has pushed for strict accountability in all programs of the government, reminding colleagues and administrators that they must work to make the taxpayer's dollar go further.

When he was elected President Pro Tempore of the United States by unanimous vote at the opening of the 100th Congress, JOHN STENNIS had served in the Senate over 40 years, second only to the late Senator Carl Hayden of Arizona who served 41 years, 10 months and 12 days. But his service is marked by more than the passage of time. And even though his legislative accomplishments are great, his service to this country cannot be adequately understood by reading the Congressional Record.

The service of Senator STENNIS is marked by dignity and decency and duty. Obstacles that would have crushed a weaker man have only served to strengthen this great American statesman who has set an example of what a public servant should be for all who aspire to make a difference.

It is a legend we celebrate, and a living legend at that. From his humble beginnings as a Mississippi farm boy to a nationally recognized leader, Senator STENNIS has maintained an enthusiasm for life that is a challenge to all who daily observe him in action. He holds firmly to his "look ahead” philosophy.

As great as his contributions have been to Mississippi and the Nation thus far, we can look forward to even more significant work from this humble man whose commitment to the people has never wavered. His legacy will continue to inspire future generations of boys and girls many at meager starting points—who set out to make life better for the people around them.

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JOHN C. STENNIS INSTITUTE OF GOVERNMENT

The John C. Stennis Institute of Government was established at Mississippi State University on July 1, 1977. Its purpose is to bring about more

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