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Ross Bass
Ross Bass (1918-1993).jpg
United States Senator
from Tennessee
In office
November 4, 1964 – January 2, 1967
Preceded byHerbert S. Walters
Succeeded byHoward Baker
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 6th District
In office
January 3, 1955 – November 3, 1964
Preceded byJames Patrick Sutton
Succeeded byWilliam R. Anderson
Personal details
Born(1918-03-17)March 17, 1918
Pulaski, Tennessee, U.S.
DiedJanuary 1, 1993(1993-01-01) (aged 74)
Miami Shores, Florida, U.S.
Resting placeMaplewood Cemetery, Pulaski, Tennessee, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Avanell K Bass
Judy Bobo
Jacqui Colter
Alma materMartin Methodist College
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Army Air Corps
Years of service1941-1945
Battles/warsWorld War II

Ross Bass (March 17, 1918 – January 1, 1993) was an American florist, postmaster, Congressman and United States Senator from Tennessee.


Bass was the son of a circuit-riding Methodist minister in rural Giles County, attended the local public schools, and graduated from Martin Methodist Junior College, Pulaski, Tennessee in 1938.[1]

He joined the United States Army Air Forces and served as a bombardier in Europe during World War II, reaching the rank of captain. After his 1945 discharge Bass opened a flower shop in Pulaski, the county seat. He was named postmaster of Pulaski in 1946, serving until 1954.[1]

Congressional service

In 1954, Bass was elected as a Democratic U.S. Congressman from Tennessee's 6th District, which included Pulaski. He was reelected four times. Having declined to sign the 1956 anti-desegregation Southern Manifesto, Bass was the only Democratic Representative from the rural South to vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[2] The only other Southern Representatives to vote for the bill were from large cities—Richard Fulton from Nashville, Tennessee, Charles Weltner from Atlanta, Georgia, Claude Pepper from Miami, Florida and four Representatives from Texas (Jack Brooks, Henry B. Gonzalez, J. J. Pickle and Albert Thomas). Bass also voted in favor of the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1962.[3]

In 1963, Senator Estes Kefauver died in office. Governor Frank G. Clement made no secret that he wanted to run in the special election due in 1964 for the final two years of Kefauver's term. To that end, he appointed one of his cabinet members, Herbert S. Walters, to serve as a caretaker until the special election. However, Clement's plan backfired when Bass defeated him in the Democratic primary held in August.

In November, Bass defeated the Republican nominee, Howard Baker by only 4.7 percentage points—the closest that a Republican had come to winning election to the Senate from Tennessee at the time.[4] Since the election was for an unexpired term, and in the Senate seniority is a very important consideration when being considered for committee assignments, office assignments, and the like, Bass was sworn in as soon as the election results could be certified in order to give him a slight seniority advantage over other freshmen Senators elected in 1964. Bass became Tennessee's junior Senator (the senior Senator at that time being Albert Gore, Sr.) and prepared to run for a full term in 1966. Bass voted in favor of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.[5]

However, this race proved problematic for Bass. Clement still desired the seat for himself, especially since he could not run for reelection as governor in 1966 (in those days, Tennessee governors were barred from immediately succeeding themselves). He wanted to avoid being forced out of politics, as he had once before when faced with term limits the first time in 1958. Bass lost the August 1966 Democratic primary to Clement, even though he received 10% more votes than in the previous election. Clement went on to lose resoundingly to Baker in the general election.

Later political career

Bass subsequently made two attempts to re-enter politics. He ran for the 1974 Democratic nomination for governor, but finished fifth in a nine-candidate field—well behind the eventual winner, Ray Blanton.[6]

In 1976 he entered the Democratic primary for his former House seat and won the nomination. The district, however, had been significantly redrawn since his previous service. Bass found himself running in a large amount of territory that he did not know and that did not know him. Much of this area was located in suburban territory near Memphis and Nashville that had turned heavily Republican, at least at the national level. Bass lost badly — by almost 29 points — to Republican Robin Beard.[7]

Personal life

His first marriage to Avanell K Bass ended in divorce in 1967. He married Judy Bobo, of Nashville, in 1975; they divorced in 1979. In 1992 he married Jacqui Colter, who outlived him. After his 1976 loss, he moved to Florida, where he lived in Miami Shores until his death from lung cancer in 1993, aged 74.[citation needed] His first cousin is actor Dewey Martin.


  1. ^ a b "Ross Bass, Ex-Senator; Tennessean Was 75", New York Times, January 2, 1993.
  2. ^ "H.R. 7152. PASSAGE".
  4. ^
  6. ^ Langsdon, Philip. Tennessee: A Political History Franklin, Tenn.: Hillsboro Press, 2000; pp. 375-387.
  7. ^ Hill, Ray. "The Last Hurrah of Ross Bass". Knoxville Focus September 10, 2017

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Estes Kefauver
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Tennessee
(Class 2)

Succeeded by
Frank G. Clement
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
James Patrick Sutton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 6th congressional district

Succeeded by
William R. Anderson
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Herbert S. Walters
 U.S. senator (Class 2) from Tennessee
Served alongside: Albert Gore
Succeeded by
Howard H. Baker
This page was last edited on 10 May 2021, at 20:04
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