Photo credited to the United States Senate Historical Office
|United States Senator|
November 4, 1964 – January 2, 1967
|Preceded by||Herbert S. Walters|
|Succeeded by||Howard Baker|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee's 6th congressional district|
January 3, 1955 – November 3, 1964
|Preceded by||James Patrick Sutton|
|Succeeded by||William R. Anderson|
|Born||March 17, 1918|
Pulaski, Tennessee, U.S.
|Died||January 1, 1993 (aged 74)|
Miami Shores, Florida, U.S.
|Resting place||Maplewood Cemetery, Pulaski, Tennessee, U.S.|
|Spouse(s)||Avanell K Bass|
|Alma mater||Martin Methodist College|
|Branch/service||United States Army Air Corps|
|Years of service||1941-1945|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
He joined the Army Air Corps during World War II, becoming a bombardier and 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.
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 Representative from the rural South to vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 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).
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. 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.
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 careerEdit
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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.
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.
His first marriage to Avanell K Bass ended in divorce in 1967. He married Judy Bobo, of Nashville, in 1975; they divorced in 1979. He later married Jacqui Colter in 1992. After his 1976 loss, he moved to Florida, where he lived in Miami Shores until his death of lung cancer in 1993, aged 74, survived by his third wife. His first cousin is actor, Dewey Martin (actor).
- "Ross Bass, Ex-Senator; Tennessean Was 75", New York Times, January 2, 1993.
- Langsdon, Philip. Tennessee: A Political History Franklin, Tenn.: Hillsboro Press, 2000; pp. 375-387.
- United States Congress. "Ross Bass (id: B000223)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
James Patrick Sutton
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 6th congressional district
William R. Anderson
Herbert S. Walters
| U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Tennessee
Served alongside: Albert Gore
Howard H. Baker