James J. Rhoades

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James J. Rhoades
Member of the Pennsylvania Senate
from the 29th district
In office
January 5, 1981 – October 18, 2008
Preceded byJoseph Gurzenda
Succeeded byDave Argall
Personal details
James John Rhoades

(1941-12-05)December 5, 1941
Waterbury, Connecticut, U.S.
DiedOctober 18, 2008(2008-10-18) (aged 66)
Allentown, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Mary Edith Holland
ChildrenJames J. Rhoades Jr. (son), Mike Rhoades (son), and Alisa Rhoades-Hobbs (daughter)
ResidenceMahanoy City, Pennsylvania
Alma materLehigh University, East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania
ProfessionEducator, State Senator

James John Rhoades (December 5, 1941 – October 18, 2008) was a Republican member of the Pennsylvania State Senate who represented the 29th District from 1980 until his death.[1][2]


Rhoades graduated from East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania in 1963 with a bachelor's degree in education and was a member of Sigma Pi fraternity.[3] He later earned a master's degree in education from Lehigh University in 1966. After graduation, Rhoades started as a teacher and football coach at the Pottsville and Mahanoy City High School.

After seven years of teaching, Rhoades was appointed as the principal of the Mahanoy Area Middle School. He served as principal for ten years before his election to the State Senate.[4]

Rhoades died in the hospital on October 18, 2008, a day after being injured in an automobile accident near Brodheadsville, Pennsylvania, in Monroe County. He had been en route to a Pleasant Valley High School football game. His wife, Mary, was also injured in the crash. Thomas Senavitis was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence and causing the accident with a blood alcohol level of 0.355%, over 4 times the Pennsylvania state limit of 0.08%.[citation needed]


Rhoades was defeated for a seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1978.[5] However, in 1980, he won a seat in the Pennsylvania State Senate, defeating Democratic incumbent Joseph Gurzenda.

As a former educator, Rhoades had an interest in education issues and ultimately became Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. As chairman of that committee, Rhoades had influence over almost all education related laws, including the Pennsylvania Safe Schools Act and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program.[6]

He also served on the Appropriations, Transportation, Law and Justice, and Environmental Resources and Energy committees.[2]

At the time of Rhoades' death, he was running for his eighth term in the State Senate, making him second behind Stewart Greenleaf on the list of the longest serving senators.[5] With absentee ballots having already been mailed in the state, the county could not remove Rhoades' name from the ballot.[7]

Rhoades was posthumously re-elected with 64% of the vote, meaning that a special election would be held for his seat.[8] In a special election held on March 3, 2009, Republican state Representative Dave Argall was elected to Rhoades' seat over his Democratic opponent, Schuylkill County Clerk of Courts Steven Lukach, by a margin of 62% to 38%.[9]


Rhoades was the cousin of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, the former Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg[10] and the current Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. His son Mike is the current head coach of the VCU men's basketball team and the former head coach at Rice University.


  1. ^ Pennsylvania State Senator Dies After Car Crash Archived 2008-10-20 at the Wayback Machine., kdka.com; accessed December 18, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Marc Levy."Pennsylvania state senator dies after car crash", philly.com; October 18, 2008.
  3. ^ "Alumni Notes" (PDF). The Emerald of Sigma Pi. Vol. 69 no. 1. Spring 1981. p. 4.
  4. ^ "James Rhoades Profile". enatorRhoades.com. Pennsylvania Senate Republican Caucus. 2008. Archived from the original on November 15, 2008. Retrieved November 15, 2008.
  5. ^ a b "Profile Page". Archived from the original on October 23, 2008. Retrieved December 18, 2015.
  6. ^ Andrew C. Martel and Christopher Baxter (2008-10-19). "Friends mourn senator killed in accident". Allentown Morning Call. Retrieved 2008-10-19.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Ben Wolfgang (October 19, 2008). "Rhoades likely to remain on ballot; special election could be held soon after". Republican & Herald.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Dustin Pangonis (2008-11-05). "Four Monroe townships will head back to the polls to fill Rhoades' seat". Pocono Record. Retrieved 2008-11-05.
  9. ^ Argall victory gives Republicans new pride, mcall.com; accessed December 18, 2015.
  10. ^ "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Legislative Journal" (PDF). Pennsylvania General Assembly. 2005-01-04. Retrieved December 18, 2015.

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