Mississippi's Top 50 Most Influential
Mississippi has often benefited from its U.S. Senators having outsized influence in the halls of Congress, but only one Senator from the Magnolia State has ever held the title of Senate Majority Leader.
The Mississippi Top 50 is proud to name Trent Lott to our 2020 Hall of Fame.
Trent Lott was born in Grenada in October 1941. His father was a sharecropper and his mother was a school teacher. The Lott family would move to Pascagoula when Trent was in the 6th grade so his father could go to work at the shipyard.
The future Senator would go on to attend the University of Mississippi where he was active in campus life, even cheering on the Rebels as a cheerleader. After he earned his law degree from Ole Miss, he went to work for Congressman William Colmer in 1968. Four years later, Lott would succeed Colmer, winning the South Mississippi Congressional seat as only the third Republican to be elected to Congress in Mississippi since Reconstruction.
Lott’s strong election win in 1972 earned him a spot on the House Judiciary Committee as a freshman where he considered the impeachment of former President Richard Nixon before Nixon ultimately resigned.
Trent would serve 8 terms in Congress winning reelection easily each time. After serving as Ronald Reagan’s state chairman during the 1980 presidential campaign, Lott became the second highest ranking Republican in Congress as the House Majority Whip. He was the first Southern Republican to hold the title.
In 1988, Lott ran for the U.S. Senate and won, succeeding retiring Senator John C. Stennis. He would win three more terms with very little opposition each time. Lott became the Senate Majority Whip in 1995, and then in 1996, he was named Senate Majority Leader replacing Bob Dole who resigned to run for President. Lott won the post over his fellow Mississippian Sen. Thad Cochran.
The Mississippi Senator would once again be faced with an impeachment trial, this time at the helm of the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate to consider the case against former President Bill Clinton.
Lott would lead the Senate as Majority Leader until 2001 when Republicans lost the majority, making him the Minority Leader. He stepped down from Senate leadership in December 2002 but would return as the Senator Minority Whip in January 2007.
Lott retired from public service in December 2007.
During his 35 years of service, Trent Lott was at the center of history. Impeachments. Middle East conflicts. Wars. Terrorism. 9/11. Natural disasters. Hurricane Katrina. Divisive elections. Economic booms and Wall Street busts.
Through it all, Trent Lott fought for Mississippi and America. He was a strong advocate for national defense and shipbuilding. He advocated for legislation that would help Mississippi businesses and shore up the state’s workforce. He championed economic development projects throughout Mississippi, and worked to advance education and healthcare. Lott knew the rules, he knew how to negotiate deals, and was considered by his colleagues as the smartest legislator in the room.
Few Mississippians have impacted the state as much as Trent Lott, and that is why we are proud to name him to the 2020 Mississippi Top 50 Hall of Fame.