JACKSON, Miss. — Sen. John C. Stennis, the longest-serving member of the current U.S. Senate, announced today he will not seek reelection next year to the seat he has held since 1947.
Stennis, 86, president pro tempore of the Senate and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said another term would keep him on the job until he was 93.
"Common sense dictates that I cannot be confident of being physically able to continue to give my best effort through another six years," the Mississippi Democrat said. "My doctors confirm my judgment."
Stennis' announcement came as he prepared to enter Walter Reed Army Medical Center "to undergo a surgical procedure to correct a prostate gland problem." He said he expects to return to work later this week.
"I greatly regret leaving the Senate . . . but age and health control," Stennis said. "My heart says yes, run again, but my best judgment says no."
Stennis said he will serve the remainder of his current term, which ends in January, 1989.
His decision will leave him just eight months short of the Senate longevity record--he would have to serve until Sept. 18, 1989, to break the service record of 41 years, 10 months and 12 days set by Arizona's Carl Hayden, who retired from the Senate in 1969.
Stennis has been confined to a wheelchair since he lost his left leg to cancer in 1984. He has held the respect of colleagues through eight presidential administrations and has easily defeated those who would have ousted him.
His reputation for honesty led fellow senators to select him to draw up a code of ethics for the chamber in the mid 1960s.