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Sen. John C. Stennis

His support of a strong foreign policy and military preparedness earned Stennis the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1972.

National Commander John H. Geiger said the senator "vigorously opposed those who would break down our defenses and weaken our liberties."

Receiving the award, Stennis replied, "I have never wavered in my belief that preserving and augmenting, if possible, the physical and moral strength of America would be my first and foremost duty and concern in the Senate. From my acquaintance with The American Legion, I know that we are allies in that concern.

"Today we are concluding yet another war, in Vietnam. But even before it has ended, we are hearing calls for cutting foreign ties and greatly reducing defense spending and, therefore, our military strength. We must be wary of such thoughtless action. Those who fail to heed the lessons of history must pay the price."

Stennis' public service spanned 60 years, starting with his election to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1928. He served as a state prosecuting attorney from 1932 to 1937 and as a state judge from 1937 to 1947.

A Democrat, he won a special election to the Senate in 1947 and never lost a re-election bid, serving 41 years until his retirement in 1988. He served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee from 1969 to 1981 and as president pro tem from 1987 to 1989. He wrote the first Senate ethics code and was the first chairman of the Ethics Committee.

Called the "father of America's modern Navy" by President Ronald Reagan because of his support for the armed forces, Stennis survived gunshot wounds sustained in a mugging outside his Washington home. In 1984, he lost his left leg to cancer. At 87, Stennis returned to Mississippi, where he taught college courses. He died in 1995, at 93.

For more on Stennis, click here (http://www.stennis.gov/about/about_show.htm?doc_id=693885).

 

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