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THE WHITE HOUSE
February 20, 1969 Dear JOHN: It was good to see you at the White House yesterday at our first bipartisan meeting.
I had intended then to congratulate you on your new responsibilities as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, but time did not permit.
Now I understand that your friends are gathering at dinner to honor you on March the third. So, perhaps you'll forgive the delay in delivery if this letter is sent to you on that occasion, so that my best wishes can be added to those of your many friends.
JOHN, I'm delighted to be able to join with other national and local leaders in honoring and acknowledging the key role you have been and are playing in the defense of our country. With warm regards, Sincerely,
I am pleased to join the friends and admirers of Senator STENNIS in honoring the new Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
I served with JOHN STENNIS for more than a decade. We worked closely in such vital areas as military preparedness, the space program, and national defense. I came to admire his dedication and his grasp of some of the most vital issues facing our Nation.
I know that he will provide wise leadership to the Armed Services Committee. I congratulate him, and I salute those who have gathered to honor him. Sincerely,
LYNDON B. JOHNSON.
Permit me to join with your many friends in congratulating you on your assumption of the Chairmanship of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Your new honor, outstanding as it is, is but another in list of achievements of a distinguished career. Sincerely,
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER.
Honorable Richard B. Russell, Senator from Georgia.
Dr. Robert S. Seamans, Jr., Secretary of the Air Force.
Major General Maurice L. Watts, President, Adjutants General Association.
Admiral John McCain, Commander in Chief, Pacific.
[From the Associated Press, April 23, 1995)
FORMER SENATOR JOHN C. STENNIS DEAD AT 93
(By Stephen Hawkins)
Former Senator JOHN C. STENNIS, a courtly Mississippi Democrat who exercised vast influence over America's military during his four decades in the Senate, died Sunday. He was 93.
STENNIS died about 3:30 p.m. at St. Dominic Hospital, where he had been taken several days ago for pneumonia, said his son John Hampton Stennis.
STENNIS earned a reputation in Washington for fairness and finesse that landed him delicate committee assignments and close association with eight U.S. Presidents. But his opposition to integration blotted his record.
STENNIS joined the Senate in 1947. At the time of his retirement in 1988, he was its oldest member.
"He was a great Senator in every way. He was effective, respected and deeply appreciated by the people in Mississippi,” said U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS). “He was truly a man of great stature. We have suffered a great loss.”
STENNIS, nicknamed the “conscience of the Senate” for his work on the Senate's code of ethics and strict religious convictions, overcame personal tragedy to continue public service.
He was wounded by robbers and left bleeding on the sidewalk near his northwest Washington home in 1973. Then-President Nixon, emerging from STENNIS' hospital room, said the Senator would survive because, “He's got the will to live in spades.”
Coy Hines Stennis, his wife of 52 years, died in 1983. And in 1984, he lost his left leg to cancer, and had to use a wheelchair.
“Discouraged? I suppose everybody's had his ups and downs. But I've never surrendered,” STENNIS said then.
STENNIS, serving as chairman of both the Armed Services Committee and the Defense Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee during the 1970s, wielded more clout over military matters than perhaps any civilian except the President.
He was a consistent advocate of the need for a strong military.
"If there is one thing I'm unyielding and unbending on, it is that we must have the very best weapons,” he once said.
After militants in Iran seized the American Embassy and held its employees hostage in late 1979, STENNIS suggested a fleet of small aircraft carriers be built to counter such crises around the world.
“Trouble can come from anywhere now,” he said. “We've got to be ready for instant action.”
Soon after, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and STENNIS called for U.S. military support bases near Mideast oil fields.
Though he stood for a tough military, STENNIS did not always back presidential military policy.
He was a leading backer of the Vietnam War. However, in the war's waning days, he co-sponsored legislation to set limits on a President's power to commit American forces to combat without Congressional consent.
A decade later, STENNIS opposed using that law—the War Powers Act of 1973—to permit President Reagan to keep Marine peacekeeping troops in Lebanon.
He condemned the Supreme Court's 1954 school desegregation decision, but in 1983 he switched and voted for an extension of the Voting Rights Act. He later said he always supported the advancement of all races.
STENNIS was born August 3, 1901, in DeKalb and graduated from Mississippi State University in 1923 before attending the University of Virginia Law School.
He began his public service in 1928 in the Mississippi Legislature, then served as a district attorney and circuit judge before joining the U.S. Senate.
After his retirement, STENNIS moved to the Mississippi State University campus in Starkville, which also is the home of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government and the Stennis Center for Public Service, created by Congress.
"I do believe the most important thing I can do now is to help young people understand the past and prepare for the future,” STENNIS said in 1990 while serving as executive in residence at the university. “As long as I have energy left, I want to use it to the benefit of students.”
Also named for the Senator is NASA's National Space Technology Laboratory in southern Mississippi. The John C. Stennis Space Center tests rocket motors.
“How would I like to be remembered? I haven't thought about that a whole lot,” STENNIS said in a 1985 interview. “You couldn't give me a finer compliment than just to say, 'He did his best.'”
The Senator's body will lie in state Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson and from 4–6 p.m. at the DeKalb Presbyterian Church in DeKalb. Graveside services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Pinecrest Cemetery in DeKalb.
Survivors include his son, a Jackson lawyer, and his daughter, Margaret Womble.
[From Reuters, Limited, April 23, 1995)
FORMER LONG-TIME MISSISSIPPI SENATOR DIES AT AGE 93
Former U.S. Senator JOHN STENNIS, a conservative Democrat from Mississippi, died at 4 p.m. Sunday in St. Dominic's Hospital here, a hospital spokeswoman reported.
St. Dominic's nursing supervisor Susan Crowdus told Reuters she could not release the cause of death, but NBC News reported Sunday that STENNIS, 93, died of pneumonia.
STENNIS served four decades in the Senate, beginning in 1948. Throughout his long Senate career, he was known as a courtly gentleman, always with a friendly word for everyone, who believed in honor, patriotism and fiscal conservatism.
He stood out as soft-spoken opponent of civil rights laws and was best known during his Senate career as a leader of the congressional faction favoring a strong U.S. military.
STENNIS was chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee from 1969 until 1981, wielding his influence on every aspect of U.S. defense power.
During the 1950s, STENNIS was named to the committee investigating Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose free-swinging anti-communist accusations gave rise to the word “McCarthyism.” He later accused McCarthy