Washington Colleagues Remember Former Sen. Jim Inhofe

Washington Colleagues Remember Former Sen. Jim Inhofe

Former colleagues of United States Sen. Jim Inhofe paid tribute to the late Senator from Oklahoma Tuesday, praising him as a devoted public servant guided by strong conservative values and an equally strong belief in value of compromise. Senator Inhofe passed away early Tuesday morning in Tulsa, days after suffering a stroke.

Many Americans may only remember Inhofe for his very public criticism of the science behind climate change, but those who worked with him and knew him say his legacy is far more broad and impactful.

“He was a remarkable individual, a man of great principle,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

Senator Reed, a Democrat and the current chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, worked with Inhofe on defense policy and funding for more than 20 years. The two men certainly didn’t always agree, but Reed says Inhofe wouldn’t let that get in the way of completing their work and supporting American men and women in uniform.

“He always sought a principled compromise,” said Reed. “He would not give up his principles but he could find a way to reconcile different opinions, different views, and come up with something very positive for the nation, particularly the Armed Forces.”

Inhofe retired from the Senate in January 2023, citing concerns with his wife Kay’s health and also with his own. Markwayne Mullin was elected to fill his unexpired term.

Mullin says Oklahomans will frequently thank him for ‘filling Senator Inhofe’s shoes’, but he says that’s a misnomer.

“I tell people all the time there’s zero shoes I’m going to fill of Jim Inhofe’s,” Sen. Mullin (R-OK) said in an interview. “He blazed a trail for me to be able to continue to build on, but no one can fill his shoes.”

When Inhofe stepped down, Rep. Frank Lucas became the longest-tenured member of the state's delegation. In a statement Tuesday, Lucas said of Inhofe: “Watching and learning under his leadership has only strengthened my sense of duty, and I have always used his character as a guidepost in my endeavors.”

Each member of the delegation put out a statement mourning Inhofe’s passing. Mullin paid tribute to him on the Senate floor late Tuesday afternoon and Senator James Lankford (R-OK) planned to lead a series of Senate tributes Wednesday morning.

“At this moment, it’s a sense of loss,” said Senator Reed, “but also a great privilege of having known a great gentleman and a great American.”