Dean of the United States House of Representatives

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Dean of the
United States House of Representatives
John Dingell, official photo portrait, 111th Congress.jpg
Incumbent
John Dingell

since January 3, 1995 (1995-01-03)
United States House of Representatives
Member of United States House of Representatives
Seat Washington, D.C.
First holder Frederick Muhlenberg
March 1789


The Dean of the United States House of Representatives is the longest continuously serving member of the House. The current Dean is John Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan. The Dean is a symbolic post whose only customary duty is to swear in a Speaker of the House when he or she is elected. The Dean comes forward on the House Floor to administer the oath to the Speaker-elect before the new Speaker then administers the oath to the other members. The Dean does not preside over the election of the Speaker, unlike the Father of the House in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom and the Dean of the Canadian House of Commons.

Because of other privileges associated with seniority, the Dean is usually allotted some of the most desirable office space, and is generally either chair or ranking minority member of an influential committee.

It is unclear when the position first achieved concrete recognition, though the seniority system and increasing lengths of service emerged in the early 20th century. As late as 1924, Frederick H. Gillett was Dean, and also Speaker, before becoming a Senator. Modern Deans move into their positions so late in their careers that a move to the Senate is highly unlikely. When Ed Markey broke Gillett's record for time in the House before moving to the Senate in 2013 he was still decades junior to the sitting Dean.

The Deanship can change hands unexpectedly. In the 1952 election, Adolph J. Sabath became the first Representative elected to a 24th term, breaking the record of 23 terms first set by former Speaker Joseph Gurney Cannon, whose service had been discontinuous, whereas Sabath's was not. North Carolina's Robert L. Doughton had not contested that election as he was retiring at the age of 89 years and two months, a House age record broken in 1998 by Sidney R. Yates, and again by current representative Ralph Hall in 2012. Claude Pepper, who died early in his final term in 1989, held the record for oldest winner of a House election until Hall broke it in 2012. However, Sabath died before the new term began and Doughton was Dean for the old term's final months before Speaker Sam Rayburn became Dean in the new Congress.

In 1994, Texas Democrat Jack Brooks was defeated by Steve Stockman in the year he was expected to succeed Jamie L. Whitten as Dean.[1]

The second longest-serving current member of the house is John Conyers, coincidentally also a Democrat from Michigan, who has served since 1965.

List of Deans of the House[edit]

Years as Dean are followed by name, party, state, and start of service in Congress.

All the members of the First Congress had equal seniority (as defined for the purpose of this article), but Muhlenberg as the Speaker was the first member to be sworn in. Muhlenberg, Hartley and Thatcher were among the 13 members who attended the initial meeting of the House on March 4, 1789.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries some state delegations to the House were often not elected until after the term had begun. To avoid confusion, this fact is ignored in the list below.

Term as Dean Dean Party State Seniority date Speaker(s)
March 1789-
March 1797
Frederick Muhlenberg Federalist Pennsylvania March 4, 1789
(also Speaker 1789–91 and 1793–95)
Frederick Muhlenberg (PA-PA) – 1789
Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. (PA-CT) – 1791
Frederick Muhlenberg (AA-PA) – 1793
Jonathan Dayton (F-NJ) – 1795
March 1797-
December 1800
Thomas Hartley Federalist Pennsylvania March 4, 1789 Jonathan Dayton (F-NJ) – 1797
Theodore Sedgwick (F-MA) – 1799
George Thatcher Federalist Massachusetts
December 1800–
March 1801
George Thatcher Federalist Massachusetts March 4, 1789  
March 1801–
March 1803
Andrew Gregg Democratic-Republican Pennsylvania March 4, 1791 Nathaniel Macon (DR-NC) – 1801
William B. Grove Federalist North Carolina
Nathaniel Macon Democratic-Republican North Carolina
March 1803–
March 1807
Andrew Gregg Democratic-Republican Pennsylvania March 4, 1791 Nathaniel Macon (DR-NC) – 1803, 1805
Nathaniel Macon Democratic-Republican North Carolina
March 1807–
December 1815
Nathaniel Macon Democratic-Republican North Carolina March 4, 1791
(also Speaker 1801–1807)
Joseph Bradley Varnum (DR-MA) – 1807, 1809
Henry Clay (DR-KY) – 1811, 1813
Langdon Cheves (DR-SC) – 1814
December 1815–
April 1816
Richard Stanford Democratic-Republican North Carolina March 4, 1797 Henry Clay (DR-KY) – 1815
April 1816–
March 1817
John Davenport Federalist Connecticut March 4, 1799  
March 1817–
March 1830
Thomas Newton, Jr. Democratic-Republican; Adams Virginia March 4, 1801 Henry Clay (DR-KY) – 1817, 1819
John W. Taylor (DR-NY) – 1820
Philip Pendleton Barbour (DR-VA) – 1821
Henry Clay (DR-KY) – 1823
John W. Taylor (NR-NY) – 1825
Andrew Stevenson (D-VA) – 1827, 1829
March 1830–
March 1833
William McCoy Jacksonian Virginia March 4, 1811 Andrew Stevenson (D-VA) – 1831
March 1833–
February 1842
Lewis Williams National Republican; Whig; Democratic North Carolina March 4, 1815 Andrew Stevenson (D-VA) – 1833
John Bell (W-TN) – 1834
James K. Polk (D-TN) – 1835, 1837
Robert M. T. Hunter (W-VA) – 1839
John White (W-KY) – 1841
February 1842–
March 1843
Horace Everett Whig Vermont March 4, 1829  
Dixon H. Lewis Democratic Alabama
March 1843–
April 1844
Dixon H. Lewis Democratic Alabama March 4, 1829 John Winston Jones (D-VA) – 1843
April 1844–
February 1848
John Quincy Adams Whig Massachusetts March 4, 1831 John Wesley Davis (D-IN) – 1845
Robert Charles Winthrop (W-MA) – 1847
James I. McKay Democratic North Carolina
February 1848–
March 1849
James I. McKay Democratic North Carolina  
March 1849–
March 1855
Linn Boyd Democratic Kentucky March 4, 1839 [2]
(also Speaker from 1851)
Howell Cobb (D-GA) – 1849
Linn Boyd (D-KY) – 1851, 1853
March 1855–
March 1859
Joshua Reed Giddings Republican Ohio May 5, 1842 Nathaniel Prentice Banks (A-MA) – 1856
James Lawrence Orr (D-SC) – 1857
March 1859–
March 1863
John S. Phelps Democratic Missouri March 4, 1845 William Pennington (R-NJ) – 1860
Galusha A. Grow (R-PA) – 1861
March 1863–
March 1869
Elihu B. Washburne Republican Illinois March 4, 1853 Schuyler Colfax (R-IN) – 1863, 1865, 1867
Theodore Medad Pomeroy (R-NY) – 1869
March 1869–
March 1875
Henry L. Dawes Republican Massachusetts March 4, 1857 James G. Blaine (R-ME) – 1869, 1871, 1873
Joseph H. Rainey (R-SC) – 1874
James G. Blaine (R-ME) – 1874
March 1875–
January 1890
William D. Kelley Republican Pennsylvania March 4, 1861 Michael C. Kerr (D-IN) – 1875
Samuel J. Randall (D-PA) – 1876, 1877, 1879
J. Warren Keifer (R-OH) – 1881
John Griffin Carlisle (D-KY) – 1883, 1885, 1887
Thomas Brackett Reed (R-ME) – 1889
January 1890–
April 1890
Samuel J. Randall Democratic Pennsylvania March 4, 1863  
April 1890–
March 1891
Joseph G. Cannon Republican Illinois March 4, 1873  
Roger Q. Mills Democratic Texas
James H. Blount Democratic Georgia
Richard P. Bland Democratic Missouri
March 1891–
March 1892
Roger Q. Mills Democratic Texas March 4, 1873 Charles Frederick Crisp (D-GA) – 1891
James H. Blount Democratic Georgia
Richard P. Bland Democratic Missouri
March 1892–
March 1893
James H. Blount Democratic Georgia March 4, 1873  
Richard P. Bland Democratic Missouri
March 1893–
March 1895
Richard P. Bland Democratic Missouri March 4, 1873 Charles Frederick Crisp (D-GA) – 1893
March 1895–
March 1897
David B. Culberson Democratic Texas March 4, 1875 Thomas Brackett Reed (R-ME) – 1895
March 1897–
September 1899
Thomas Brackett Reed Republican Maine March 4, 1877 (also Speaker 1889–1891 and 1895–1899) Thomas Brackett Reed (R-ME) – 1897
September 1899–
March 1912
Henry H. Bingham Republican Pennsylvania March 4, 1879 David B. Henderson (R-IA) – 1899, 1901
Joseph Gurney Cannon (R-IL) – 1903, 1905, 1907, 1909
Champ Clark (D-MO) – 1911
March 1912–
December 1914
Sereno E. Payne Republican New York March 4, 1889 Champ Clark (D-MO) – 1913
December 1914–
April 1918
William A. Jones Democratic Virginia March 4, 1891 Champ Clark (D-MO) – 1915, 1917
April 1918–
March 1919
Henry Allen Cooper Republican Wisconsin March 4, 1893  
Frederick H. Gillett Republican Massachusetts
March 1919–
March 1925
Frederick H. Gillett Republican Massachusetts March 4, 1893
(also Speaker)
Frederick H. Gillett (R-MA) – 1919, 1921, 1923
March 1925–
May 1928
Thomas S. Butler Republican Pennsylvania March 4, 1897 Nicholas Longworth (R-OH) – 1925, 1927
May 1928–
March 1933
Gilbert N. Haugen Republican Iowa March 4, 1899 Nicholas Longworth (R-OH) – 1929
John Nance Garner (D-TX) – 1931
March 1933–
April 1934
Edward W. Pou Democratic North Carolina March 4, 1901 Henry T. Rainey (D-IL) – 1933
April 1934–
November 1952
Adolph Joachim Sabath Democratic Illinois March 4, 1907 Joseph W. Byrns (D-TN) – 1935
William B. Bankhead (D-AL) – 1936, 1937, 1939
Sam Rayburn (D-TX) – 1940, 1941, 1943, 1945
Joseph W. Martin, Jr. (R-MA) – 1947
Sam Rayburn (D-TX) – 1949, 1951
November 1952–
January 1953
Robert L. Doughton Democratic North Carolina March 4, 1911  
January 1953–
November 1961
Sam Rayburn Democratic Texas March 4, 1913
(also Speaker from 1955)
Joseph W. Martin, Jr. (R-MA) – 1953
Sam Rayburn (D-TX) – 1955, 1957, 1959, 1961
November 1961–
January 1965
Carl Vinson Democratic Georgia November 3, 1914 John W. McCormack (D-MA) – 1962, 1963
January 1965–
January 1973
Emanuel Celler Democratic New York March 4, 1923 John W. McCormack (D-MA) – 1965, 1967, 1969
Carl Albert (D-OK) – 1971
January 1973–
March 1976
Wright Patman Democratic Texas March 4, 1929 Carl Albert (D-OK) – 1973, 1975
March 1976–
January 1979
George H. Mahon Democratic Texas January 3, 1935 Tip O'Neill (D-MA) – 1977
January 1979–
January 1995
Jamie L. Whitten Democratic Mississippi November 4, 1941 Tip O'Neill (D-MA) – 1979, 1981, 1983, 1985
Jim Wright (D-TX) – 1987, 1989
Tom Foley (D-WA) – 1989, 1991, 1993
January 1995–
present
John Dingell Democratic Michigan December 13, 1955 Newt Gingrich (R-GA) – 1995, 1997
Dennis Hastert (R-IL) – 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) – 2007, 2009
John Boehner (R-OH) – 2011, 2013
  • Hartley, Stanford, Williams, Kelley, Randall, Bingham, Payne, Jones, Cooper, Butler, Pou, Sabath, Rayburn, and Patman died in office.
  • Vinson, Whitten, and Dingell entered the House to fill unexpired terms.
  • Dingell has served as Dean longer than any other person: 19 years and 350 days.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ron Hutcheson (July 25, 1994). "Texan in line as House dean – Jack Brooks has reputation as in-your-face politician". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. p. 1. 
  2. ^ Boyd had previously served 1835–37