Ross Bass, U.S. Senator

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Ross Bass

Birthdate: (74)
Birthplace: Pulaski, TN, USA
Death: January 1, 1993 (74)
Miami Shores, FL, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of William Arch Bass and Ethel Bass
Husband of Jacqui Bass
Brother of Horace Bass and E. V. McCarty

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Ross Bass, U.S. Senator

Ross Bass (March 17, 1918 – January 1, 1993) was an American florist, postmaster, Congressman, and United States Senator from Tennessee.


Bass was the son of a circuit-riding Methodist minister in rural Giles County, attended the local public schools, and graduated from Martin Methodist Junior College in Pulaski in 1938. He joined the Army Air Corps during World War II, becoming a bombardier and reaching the rank of captain. After his 1945 discharge Bass opened a flower shop in Pulaski, the county seat. He was named postmaster of Pulaski in 1946, serving until 1954.

Congressional service

In 1954, Bass was elected as a Democratic U.S. Congressman from Tennessee's 6th District, which included Pulaski. He was reelected four times and served until 1964, when Senator Estes Kefauver died in office. A Democratic primary was held for the unexpired balance of this term in August, 1964, and Bass entered this contest, surprising some by defeating Governor of Tennessee Frank G. Clement. In November, Bass defeated the Republican nominee, Howard Baker, to win the final two years of the term.

Since the election was for an unexpired term, and in the Senate seniority is a very important consideration when being considered for committee assignments, office assignments, and the like, Bass was sworn in as soon as the election results could be certified in order to give him a slight seniority advantage over other freshmen Senators elected in 1964. Bass became Tennessee's junior Senator (the senior Senator at that time being Albert Gore, Sr.) and prepared to run for a full term in 1966.

However, this race proved problematic for Bass. Clement still desired the seat for himself, especially since term limits were going to prevent him from standing to succeed himself as governor in 1966, and without this seat he would find himself out of politics, as he had once before when faced with term limits the first time in 1958. Bass lost the 1966 Democratic Primary to Clement that August, even though he received 10% more votes than in the previous election. The Republican primary election was uncontested, and Tennessee does not have party registration so his loss was widely attributed to a large Republican crossover vote. Since Bass had defeated Howard Baker two years earlier by a good margin of victory, the Republicans felt they had a better chance of defeating Clement. (Clement then proceeded to lose in the general election to Baker, who became Tennessee's first elected post-Reconstruction Republican Senator).

While serving in Congress, Bass was the only Representative from the rural South to vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, even though his hometown was Pulaski, which is where the Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1866. The only other two Southern Representatives to vote for the bill were from large cities, Richard Fulton from Nashville, Tennessee and Claude Pepper from Miami, Florida.

Later political career

Bass subsequently made two attempts to re-enter politics. He ran for the 1974 Democratic nomination for governor but finished fifth in a nine-man field, a surprisingly weak finish for a former Senator. (His strong stand against capital punishment was generally considered to hinder him.) In 1976 he entered the Democratic primary for his former House seat and won the nomination. However, the district had been significantly redrawn since his previous service. Bass found himself running in a large amount of territory he did not know and that did not know him. In addition, much of this territory was heavily Republican, having been added by the state legislature after the 1970 census in an attempt to punish his successor in Congress, William Anderson, for his perceived liberalism. He lost badly—by over 30 points—to Robin Beard, the Republican who had defeated Anderson, despite 1976 otherwise being almost a Democratic sweep in Tennessee, which voted for Jimmy Carter for President and saw the defeat of Senator Bill Brock in favor of Jim Sasser. Bass apparently saw that he had no future in elective politics.

Personal life

His first marriage ended in divorce in 1967. He later married Jacqui Colter. After his 1976 loss, he moved to Florida, where he lived in North Miami until his death of lung cancer in 1993, survived by his second wife. His brother, Horace Bass, is a retired Methodist minister and a former state Cabinet member and owner of a manufacturing firm in Nashville best-known for its line of mattresses, Fluffo.

His first cousin is actor Dewey Martin


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Ross Bass, U.S. Senator's Timeline

March 17, 1918
Pulaski, TN, USA
January 1, 1993
Age 74
Miami Shores, FL, USA