Thad Cochran Dies at 81; Lawmaker Brought Largess to Mississippi

“I’m devastated,” said Senator Leahy, the senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. “I assumed we would serve out our time together here. He has always, always, always kept his word, and I wish to heck some other senators around here would learn to do that.”

William Thad Cochran was born on Dec. 7, 1937, in Pontotoc, Miss., the older of two sons of William Cochran, a school principal in Beckham, and Emma (Berry) Cochran, a teacher. The family, which included another son, Nielson, settled in 1946 in Byram, near Jackson, where Thad attended high school. He was an Eagle Scout; played football, basketball, baseball and tennis; and was class valedictorian in 1955.

At the University of Mississippi, he majored in psychology and minored in political science, was vice president of the student government, joined the Navy R.O.T.C. and graduated with honors in 1959. He later served 18 months aboard a heavy cruiser.

He studied law on a fellowship for a year at Trinity College, Dublin, and earned his law degree at the University of Mississippi in 1965. He joined a prestigious law firm in Jackson, soon became a partner and was active in civic, cultural and political groups — and destined for bigger things in Washington.

In 1964, he married Rose Clayton. They had two children, Clayton and Katherine. His wife died in 2014. In 2015, he married Kay Webber, his longtime administrative aide.

In addition to his wife and his two children, his survivors include three grandchildren.