Sen. Lankford told his colleagues the Senate will miss Jim Inhofe


More tributes were made Wednesday following the death of former Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, including a Senate floor speech from Sen. James Lankford.

Lankford who replaced Inhofe as Oklahoma’s senior senator told those in the chamber the Senate will miss Inhofe and so will the nation.

Without objection, the Senate granted Lankford permission to speak about the late Inhofe “for as long as I desire.”

CLICK HERE download the remarks on Box.  

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CLICK HERE to view the remarks on Rumble. 

Below is his speech:


I’m standing today, at not my desk location. I’m standing at my senior senator’s desk location. This was the location for Jim Inhofe’s desk two years ago when he retired from the Senate. And as you’ve heard from multiple different members today, he’ll be deeply missed. I still have a moment every time someone says ‘the senior Senator from Oklahoma,’ and they’re speaking to me, that I turn around and look for Jim because he’ll be sorely missed. 

Jim was my friend. He was my colleague. He was a mentor. He was a person to be able to work side by side with. Our staffs worked very well together because we chose to work well together and to be able to get things done for our state of Oklahoma. My task today is to tell a little bit of a story. I can’t do that in a few minutes, but I’m going to try to give as much as I can. 

James Mountain Inhofe—and everyone loved that middle name of his— James Mountain Inhofe was actually born in Iowa in 1934. His parents, Perry Dyson Inhofe and his mom, Blanche Phoebe Mountain. That’s where the ‘Mountain’ came from. Most folks don’t even know. But the nation and our state was forever changed when, at eight years old, their family moved from Iowa to Tulsa, Oklahoma. He graduated from Central High School in 1953. Later graduating from the University of Tulsa, but actually attending classes all over the place to be able to get to that graduation. He served in the United States Army from 1957 to 1958, stationed at Fort Lee, Virginia, became a licensed pilot in 1958, and that was one of the loves of his life. 

But the real love of his life was his relationship with Jesus and his beautiful wife, Kay, who he married in 1959. He was first elected to public office in Oklahoma at 32 years old, actually, he served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, sat on multiple committees, and then was elected to be the mayor of Tulsa in 1978. He loved Tulsa, Oklahoma. He later served in the United States House of Representatives from 1987 to 1994, and then was elected in a special election into this body in 1994. He was sworn in on November the 17th, actually of 1994, on his 60th Birthday. 

He then served five terms after that, serving the United States Senate, serving as chairman, Environment and Public Works, serving as chairman of Armed Services. Serving on multiple different committees including the Intelligence Committee, Indian Affairs Committee, Committee on Foreign Relations, on Commerce, Science, Transportation, Small Business. He was engaged in this body and worked to be able to find ways to be able to make a difference for our state of Oklahoma and for the nation. 

He loved flying and had over 11,000 flight hours. In fact, he did a crazy thing, which he did multiple crazy things, but he did crazy things and he replicated, I should say, recreated Oklahoma Wiley Post’s historic flight around the world when he got in a twin engine Cessna and flew from DC to Iceland, to Berlin, to Moscow, all the way back around to Alaska so he could circumnavigate the globe, following after Wiley Post the famous Oklahomans circumnavigation of the globe, as well. 

He was passionate about infrastructure, which has been mentioned often. He would often say as a conservative, he was passionate about national defense and about infrastructure. Those were constitutional responsibilities, and he fulfilled that well. He was passionate about trying to find ways to be able to help veterans and those that were serving in our military and to be able to maintain energy. 

There’s a great story of a debate that he held about energy taxes on the floor of the Senate here, and it was a full on debate, which rarely occurs in this body very often. But he was led by Senator Inhofe on this side of the aisle and by Senator Bernie Sanders on the other side. And they had an hour long debate between the two of them about energy taxation. And at the end of that, there was a vote. And Senator Inhofe won that vote 2-to-1, where at the end of it, Senator Sanders came to him and said, ‘We don’t do that often enough. We should do that more.’ Because Senator Inhofe never hesitated to be able to talk about the hard issues with people that he disagreed with and to be able to say, ‘let’s figure it out.’ 

When I attended Dianne Feinstein’s funeral not that long ago, Senator Barbara Boxer from California immediately found me at the funeral and said, ‘How’s my friend Jim?’ Where a very conservative Oklahoman had a long-standing friendship with a very liberal Californian, and they found ways to be able to work together. As Jack Reed mentioned earlier, a Democrat from Rhode Island and a Republican from Oklahoma worked very hard on national defense and found their common ground together. Though there are many things that Jim Inhofe will be recognized for, he will be remembered for his work in Africa. 

Jim Inhofe visited 172 African countries…in the time he served in the Senate, more than any other Senator in the history of the Senate…He visited leaders over and over and over again in Africa, developing deep relationships and friendships. Every time I meet an African leader here in Washington, DC and they hear that I’m from Oklahoma, either the first or second thing that they’ll say to me is, ‘Do you know my friend Jim Inhofe?’ And I will proudly say, ‘Yes.’ 

And that African leader will say, ‘He’s been my friend for years.’ Because Jim Inhofe intentionally went to Africa, developing relationships. The reason we have an Africom military focus in that area is because of Jim Inhofe. 

There are relationships that he built across the years there that brought down violence in Africa because when violence began to erupt in some countries, Jim would get on a plane and would fly and would get the two leaders that were in conflict because he knew them both together and say, ‘We’re going to pray together and we’re going to resolve this right now.’ And he did. And while most of the world doesn’t know what Jim Inhofe did in Africa, he will be long remembered for his faith, his love for his family, and for what he did over and over again for the people of Oklahoma and for Africa. 

He was the longest serving senator for the state of Oklahoma. And he will be long remembered and appreciated in my great state. He will be appreciated by many of the staff members they worked alongside of him, I can assure you of that. He had 34 staff members that worked for him more than 10 years. 

Now, for anyone that’s in this body, we know how rare that is because staff members tend to come and go. But for Jim, he wanted to be able to build camaraderie among his team. He wanted to do serious hard things, but he often did it among his staff in a non-serious way. He was notorious for the way, quite frankly, he tormented his staff, bugged them, hazed them, and challenged them to be able to step up and to be able to do hard things and figure out how to be able to get things done. 

Ryan Jackson, who was his future chief of staff, on his first day on the job as a young campaign staffer, Jim Inhofe picked him up in Oklahoma City. They drove out for a campaign event in western Oklahoma for that event. And then Jim went back to Tulsa, not through Oklahoma City, and told Ryan, ‘Figure out how to get home.’ Which he did to multiple staff members over the years because he wanted to be able to push them and to say, ‘Figure it out.’ That was always his challenge to his staff: figure it out. 

By the way, that didn’t scare Ryan off. He stayed with him 18 years and that young campaign staff member later became his chief of staff. He had many rules. But the top rule that he had was on his airplane: no one touched the door of his airplane but him. That was a fireable offense for any staff member that wanted to be able to touch the airplane door, except for him. He also had a book that he would pass out to his staff all the time, called Message to Garcia. Many of us know that book. That book is a story about a young soldier that was given a task by a general and was basically told, he has to be able to figure things out. So he would hand that book to staff members and would say, ‘Read this. You need to be able to know this.’ And a staff member on his team when he turned a memo in to Jim Inhofe and it wasn’t sufficient, would get just a message on it, MTG written on it. In other words, Message to Garcia. Go figure this out and come back and tell me what needs to be done. 

He was also, as has been mentioned by multiple of my colleagues, an extremely hard worker. His staff often said they only worked half a day for Jim, that is from 7:30 in the morning until 7:30 in the evening that they would just work half days. If you got into the office, in Jim Inhofe is office, if you arrived at 8:30, he would greet you with a ‘good afternoon’ statement to you to be able to welcome you in. 

He had, as I mentioned, many opportunities to be able to do ministry and challenges to people in Africa. And there was a deep love for him. In multiple countries, but was probably no more so than in Western Sahara, where he fought tenaciously for the independence of those individuals in Western Sahara with Morocco. In fact, so much so that Western Sahara officials gave him a camel, which obviously he couldn’t accept nor bring home. And so he told them, just hang on to it. I can’t actually accept this camel and take it home. So when he visited Western Sahara, every time they would bring the camel back to the airport to show him they’re still hanging on to his camel, they still have it.  

I have to say, there’s a million stories about his leadership and his interaction, but his staff tells great stories about their friendships and relationships. I’ve been to many a place where Jim would turn and look into the crowd and would identify what he called the has-beens that were in the crowd. Those were the staff that were his former staff that showed up at just about every event he would go to because of their deep love for him even though they had left the staff. Wendy Price, when she first got her job as scheduler, was put on probation because Jim felt she was too young. She stayed on probation for 20 years and would still be working with Jim today if he hadn’t retired. 

I have to tell you. There’s a lot of characters about Jim Inhofe. And I’ve read some of the stories in the newspaper of things that some of the press writes about him. I can only read those stories and shake my head and said, ‘Jim would have loved that.’ Because he didn’t allow a liberal press to be able to define him. 

He worked across the aisle. He worked to get things done, and he spent time doing the things that need to be done for the future of the country, including at a moment when President Trump was elected and many of Jim Inhofe’s staff was actually put into the EPA, and it drove the Washington Post crazy that many of Jim Inhofe staff from EPW went to the EPA, and the Washington Post wrote a blistering story about it. Jim Inhofe bought a ton of the copies of that Washington Post, and then just started handing it out to people so that they would all read and would know, he’s fully aware of what people say, but he’s going to work to get stuff done for the country.  

I will miss my friend, and I’ll continue to pray for Kay and for his family as they grieve. And I say to them, Psalm 34:18, ‘The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and He saves those who are crushed in spirit.’ They grieve for their husband, their dad, their grandfather. Many of us grieve for our friend. But this Senate will miss Jim Inhofe and so will our nation.