Former U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi dies at 81

Former U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, the courtly Mississippi Republican who held leadership positions over some four decades in the Senate, died on Thursday at the age of 81, his successor, U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, said in a statement.

Cochran had served as chairman of the influential Senate Appropriations Committee, which controls billions of dollars in discretionary spending, and before that during the George W. Bush administration, when he oversaw funding for the Iraq War and rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast.

He resigned from the Senate last year due to health concerns. Hyde-Smith was first appointed to take his seat, and won a special election in November 2018 to serve the remainder of his term.

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President Trump holds a rally in Southaven, Mississippi
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President Trump holds a rally in Southaven, Mississippi
U.S. President Donald Trump rallies supporters during a Make America Great Again rally in Southaven, Mississippi, U.S. October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump rallies with supporters during a Make America Great Again rally in Southaven, Mississippi, U.S. October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump rallies supporters during a Make America Great Again rally in Southaven, Mississippi, U.S. October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump addresses supporters during a Make America Great Again rally in Southaven, Mississippi, U.S. October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
People bow their heads in prayer before U.S. President Donald Trump rallies with supporters during a Make America Great Again rally in Southaven, Mississippi, U.S. October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
People look on during a Make America Great Again rally with U.S. President Donald Trump in Southaven, Mississippi, U.S. October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Brad Parscale, Trump 2020 re-election campaign manager, stands for the national anthem as U.S. President Donald Trump rallies with supporters during a Make America Great Again rally in Southaven, Mississippi, U.S., October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
A woman bows her head in prayer before U.S. President Donald Trump rallies with supporters during a Make America Great Again rally in Southaven, Mississippi, U.S. October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
US President Donald Trump speaks during a 'Make America Great Again' rally at Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi, on October 2, 2018. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks during a 'Make America Great Again' rally at Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi, on October 2, 2018. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (L) stands on stage with US President Donald Trump at a 'Make America Great Again' rally at Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi, on October 2, 2018. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump attend a 'Make America Great Again' rally at Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi, on October 2, 2018. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump arrives at a 'Make America Great Again' rally at Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi, on October 2, 2018. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump attend a 'Make America Great Again' rally at Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi, on October 2, 2018. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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Cochran started out as a Democrat back when the U.S. South was a stronghold for the party, and voted for Lyndon Johnson for president in 1964. But with the region shifting toward the Republican Party, four years later he worked for Richard Nixon's successful presidential campaign.

Cochran first went to Washington to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1973. When he was elected to the Senate in 1978, he became the first Republican to win a statewide election in Mississippi since Reconstruction following the Civil War.

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