DALLAS (AP) — When Ralph Hall was elected to the U.S. House in 1980 at the age of 57, he had already served in the Navy in World War II, built a successful business career and served in Texas’ state government for many years.
On Christmas Day, the North Texas congressman will become the oldest person ever to serve in the U.S. House, surpassing the record of North Carolina Rep. Charles Manly Stedman, who died in office in 1930 at age 89 years, 7 months and 25 days.
Hall, who turns 90 on May 3, became the oldest House member to ever cast a vote this year. Those close to the Rockwall Republican say he remains active. Voters re-elected him last month to a 17th term, and Hall told the Dallas Morning News (http://dallasne.ws/VZ4wcG ) he may even run again.
“I’m just an old guy — lived pretty clean,” Hall said. “I have no ailments. I don’t hurt anywhere. I may run again. I’ll just wait and see.”
It’s more common for senators to serve into their later years, in part because senators run for re-election every six years instead of every two.
Hall’s longtime chief of staff, Janet Perry Poppleton, and fellow members of Texas’ congressional delegation credit him for staying active and physically healthy.
“He says the good Lord gives him stamina,” Poppleton said. “He takes care of himself, exercises. He has a full agenda every day.”
Hall chaired the House Science, Space and Technology Committee for the last two years, although he’ll soon step down as chairman due to term limits. Colleagues marvel at Hall’s stamina and joke about the stories he tells from his decades in public service.
“He gets up and does 50 pushups every day and runs two miles,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas.
Hall graduated from Rockwall High School and eventually joined the Navy during World War II. He’s one of just two current U.S. House members to have served in World War II. The other is 86-year-old U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Michigan, who is the longest-serving member of the House.
Hall served as president and CEO of the Texas Aluminum Corp. and helped found a bank in Rockwell, among other private-sector achievements, according to his congressional website.
He served as Rockwall County judge, or the chief administrative official, and later in the Texas state Senate before he was elected to the U.S. House in 1980 as a Democrat. More than two decades later, Hall became a Republican, which likely prolonged his political career.
While Democrats were angry, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat from Dallas, made sure to tell Hall she still liked him.
“He admitted being so happy to hear my message because his wife was mad at him,” Johnson said, according to the newspaper. “Some said she actually had him sleeping on the couch.”
Hall’s wife, Mary Ellen Hall, died in 2008. He keeps a black-and-white photo of himself in a Navy uniform next to Mary Ellen on his desk in a House committee hearing room.
“I’m not what I used to be, and I’m more than I used to be somewhat,” Hall said. “I have my grandchildren. Those are the ones that I think about as we pass legislation. It’s a pleasure to be here.”
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