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Former Oklahoma senator, vocal climate-change critic James Inhofe dead at 89

By Mike Heuer
Sen. James Inhofe (C) is ceremoniously sworn-in by Vice President Mike Pence at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 3, 2021. File Photo Samuel Corum/UPI
1 of 6 | Sen. James Inhofe (C) is ceremoniously sworn-in by Vice President Mike Pence at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 3, 2021. File Photo Samuel Corum/UPI | License Photo

July 9 (UPI) -- Former Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma suffered a stroke on Independence Day and died Tuesday at age 89, his family announced.

Inhofe was an Army veteran and licensed pilot who flew himself to and from Washington, D.C., during his years in Congress as a member of the House of Representatives and most recently a member of the Senate.

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Former Inhofe staffer and former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler confirmed Inhofe's passing on X.

"Former Sen. Jim Inhofe passed away this morning," Wheeler said. "He was a devout Christian and family man. He was also devoted to his former staff who he considered his extended family."

Inhofe was elected to Congress as a representative for Oklahoma's 1st Congressional District in 1986 and ascended to the Senate in 1994. He remained in the Senate until resigning in early 2023.

Inhofe said he tested positive for COVID-19 when he announced his pending resignation in February 2023.

He said it was time to make way for the "next generation of Oklahomans to have the opportunity to serve the state in the U.S. Senate."

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Inhofe was considered one of the most conservative members of the Senate but was noted for developing bipartisan support for infrastructure, environmental and military-related legislation.

Inhofe formerly chaired the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and was a vocal critic of man-made climate change.

He once brought a snowball to the Senate floor during an out-of-season snowstorm and declared climate change was a "hoax."

Inhofe also was the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee after chairing it from 2018 through 2020.

Despite being one of the Senate's most conservative members, he maintained generally friendly relationships with his counterparts in the Senate Democratic Caucus.

"He's a gentleman, and he's someone who is sincere in all he does," Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said of Inhofe in 2019.

Reed currently chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Securing federal funding to clean a shuttered mining area in northeastern Oklahoma that had been on the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund list for decades was among Inhofe's legislative achievements.

The environmental cleanup project included buying homes located within a 40-square-mile area through which Tar Creek flowed.

Several local children continually tested positive for high levels of lead in their blood due to the environmental contamination from the former mining operations there.

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"This is an example of a government program created for a specific purpose and then dissolves after the job is completed," Inhofe said as the cleanup project was nearing completion in 2010.

"This is how government should work," he added.

Inhofe also voted to confirm President Joe Biden's 2020 election win and twice voted against impeaching former President Donald Trump.

Notable deaths of 2024

Bob Newhart
Comedian and actor Bob Newhart attends the Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on September 10, 2016. Newhart, a comedy icon who starred on "The Bob Newhart Show" and "Newhart," died at the age of 94 on July 18. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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