Former Sen. Jim Inhofe dead at 89


Former Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe died Monday evening.

He was 89 and missed his 90th birthday by about four months. “Mountain” was his middle name and indeed, he was a mountain when it came to politics and his stature in the history of Oklahoma.

U.S. Senator Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) released the following statement after the passing of former U.S. Senator Inhofe:

“It’s fitting that Senator Jim Inhofe’s middle name was Mountain — because that’s exactly what he was, not just for our state, but for the nation,” said Sen. Markwayne Mullin.

“Senator Inhofe’s tenacity and enduring love for Oklahoma made him a titan in the Senate. He was a tireless advocate, and a wonderful friend, father, husband, and grandfather. While I will never be able to fill his shoes, Jim’s spirit, passion, and love of country will continue to inspire me each and every day. Our prayers are with Kay, his former staff, and the entire Inhofe family.”

Mullin was a member of the U.S. House when he won the special election to succeed Inhofe as he retired.

Inhofe was the longest serving U.S. Senator from Oklahoma and served in the Senate from 1994 to 2023. The long-time Republican served in various capacities of elected public offices from 1966 to 2023, including as mayor of Tulsa from 1978 to 1984. During his business career, Inhofe was a land developer, an aviation executive and an insurance executive. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987 to 1994 before being elected U.S. Senator.

His family issued a statement Tuesday morning and confirmed Inhofe had suffered a stroke.

“Oklahoma’s longest-serving United States Sen. James M. Inhofe passed away at 4:48 a.m. after a stroke over the holiday.

He passed peacefully, surrounded by his wife Kay, and his three surviving children, Molly, Jimmy and Katy. His son Perry passed away several years ago in a private airplane accident in Tulsa.

The family is very grateful for the extraordinary care staff and doctors of the seventh floor NeuroTrauma Intensive Care Unit of St. John’s Hospital in Tulsa.

Inhofe served his beloved state in many capacities over the years, including in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, the Oklahoma State Senate, as mayor of Tulsa, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate since 1994. He retired from the Senate in 2023.

In the U.S. Senate he served as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee and as chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

The lifelong aviator once flew a small plane around the world and passed the Pilot’s Bill of Rights.

Gov. Kevin Stiff immediately ordered flags to fly at half-staff in Inhofe’s honor. He also released a statement.

“Sarah and I are saddened by the news of the passing of Senator Inhofe and our hearts go out to Kay, their children and grandchildren. Jim was a generational Oklahoman who relentlessly championed our veterans, never wavered in protecting our values, and a firm believer in the American dream. Jim will be remembered as a true statesman and public servant— and a fighter for Oklahoma.”

In the Senate, Sen. Inhofe had a reputation as a staunch conservative who wasn’t afraid to stand up for his beliefs, whether it was tossing a snowball on the Senate floor to claim that climate change was a hoax to urging the creation of a strong U.S. national defense.

The snowball came to play in February 2015 when a snowstorm blanketed Washington, D.C. and Inhofe carried a snowball to the Senate floor during a speech in which he questioned the science behind climate change.

“Do you know what this is? It’s a snowball,” Inhofe said, holding the snowball. “It’s just from outside here, so it’s very, very cold out … very unseasonable.”

“Mr. President, catch this,” he said, tossing the snowball away. An Inhofe aide told National Journal the projectile was caught by a congressional page, according to a CBS News report at the time.

Inhofe further pressed his point.

“We hear the perpetual headline that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, but now the script has flipped,” he said.

Inhofe at the time chaired the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and his argument against climate change wasn’t new. After all, he authored a book in 2012 and dared defy environmentalists and climate change supporters by calling their claims “The Greatest Hoax.”

A few years before authoring the controversial book, Inhofe asked for a criminal investigation into clilmate change scientists. He charged they had “manipulated data to prove the scientific ‘consensus’ of global warming.”

Time and time again as the leader of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Inhofe tore into the Obama administration and its efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Climate change and the environment weren’t his only passions. As The Frontier reported in 2023 following an interview with the Senator, “His controversial slogan during his first run for U.S. Senate was “God, Guns and Gays,” and he still stands by it 28 years later — consistently voting against abortion, gun control and gay marriage.”

Even as he said goodbye to Capitol Hill, he told The Frontier that Congress was wrong to try and prevent climate change.

“This is in God’s hand. It’s not going to be something that we’re going to have control over and it’s arrogant for (people) to just walk around and (think) that.”

Then there was Sen. Inhofe’s love for aviation.

He had been a pilot for years and was known to personally fly himself to campaign stops and Senate office visits around the state.

He experienced a forced landing of his small plane when he was 81 and had to put the plane down in the northeastern Oklahoma town of Ketchum. That was in 2016 and by then, the Senator had amassed more than 11,000 flight hours during decades of flying.

Then there was the 2010 incident in which he landed on a closed Texas runway while maintenance workers were present. He landed the twin-engine Cessna on the occupied closed runway at Port Isabel-Cameron County airport and as a result, came under investigation by the FAA.