'He Was The Real Deal': Politicians, Friends Of Jim Inhofe React To Former Senator's Death

Several politicians and friends of former Sen. Jim Inhofe have expressed their condolences and shared Inhofe's impact on the country and the state of Oklahoma after his family announced he passed away on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, July 9th 2024, 4:59 pm

By: News On 6, News 9

The family of former United States Sen. Jim Inhofe announced on Tuesday the politician had passed away after a sudden illness over the 4th of July holiday.

They said he passed peacefully surrounded by his wife Kay and his three surviving children, Molly, Jimmy, and Katy. His son Perry passed away several years ago in a private airplane accident in Tulsa.

Several politicians and friends of the former senator have expressed their condolences and shared Inhofe's impact on the country and the state of Oklahoma.

Senator James Lankford talked to News 9 at 9 to share his respect for Inhofe.

"Jim was always a force to be reckoned with, to say the least. He had very strong opinions and was very passionate about our military, about infrastructure, about aviation, about environmental regulations, about Oklahoma energy," Lankford said.

He said Inhofe dedicated his life to service, and his work benefits Oklahomans daily.

"The passing of Jim Inhofe is a huge loss for the state. We grieve for the family, and we as a state will all pause and remember his great service to the state and be incredibly grateful, not only for his personal relationship with Jesus but for his love for the state and for his love for our nation.

T.W. Shannon, Former Oklahoma House of Representatives Speaker, also spoke with News 9 at 9 about Inhofe.

"This is not just the loss of the state; this is a loss for the nation. I mean, this guy, Senator Inhofe, who was a mentor to many of us, he was the real deal," Shannon said.

He shared fond memories of Inhofe and what he respects most about the former senator, including his passion for his family and personal relationships.

"They just don't make him like Jim Inhofe anymore. He was one of a kind, and his love for his wife and his family has also been an inspiration," Shannon said.

Shannon said Inhofe was a strong leader and embodies the Oklahoma spirit better than anyone.

"He was able to stand for Oklahoma, to stand for the Constitution, to stand for Christianity, and he did it in a way that made us all proud every single day," Shannon said. "He's going to be missed. My family, we're grieving, we miss him already."

Governor Kevin Stitt said that he will order all flags to be flown at half-staff in a statement issued on Tuesday.

"Sarah and I are saddened by the news of the passing of Senator Inhofe and our hearts go out to Kay, their children, and grandchildren. Jim was a generational Oklahoman who relentlessly championed our veterans, never wavered in protecting our values, and a firm believer in the American Dream. Jim will be remembered as a true statesman and public servant— and a fighter for Oklahoma.
In honor of his memory and service, I'm ordering all flags on state property to be flown at half-staff until tomorrow evening."

Representative Kevin Hern released a statement following his death saying:

Senator Jim Inhofe was a dear friend and mentor, a titan in Oklahoma, and a highly effective leader in DC,” said Rep. Hern. “Tammy and I are keeping Kay and the rest of the Inhofe family in our prayers. Jim spent his life in service to his country, both in uniform and in the halls of Congress. He will always be remembered as a fighter, especially for our military service members. Jim’s legacy of service, leadership, and faith reflect the Oklahoma Standard and the pride he held in his work. Along with the family, friends, and many Oklahomans who knew and loved him, I mourn the loss of a great man.

Mike Neal, the president and CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber also made a statement saying:

“The Tulsa Regional Chamber mourns the death of former U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe, who spent his entire professional career seeking to enrich the lives of Oklahomans. As a former Tulsa mayor, Congressman and the longest-serving U.S. senator from Oklahoma, Inhofe was the consummate public servant, unafraid to advocate for his constituents, particularly in the areas of transportation, infrastructure and the armed services.
“We are especially grateful to the former senator for several recent wins, including full funding of the Tulsa/West Tulsa Levees, a longtime priority within the Chamber’s OneVoice Regional Legislative Agenda. He also led the effort to designate U.S. Highway 412 as an interstate, and he oversaw reforms to help address the maintenance backlog of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.
“The breadth of Senator Inhofe’s impact on Oklahoma and the members of its business community is immeasurable. We applaud his commitment to our great state and offer our condolences to Kay and his wonderful family.”

Current Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum also released a statement highlighting Inhofe's contribution to Tulsa:

"While his tenure as the longest-serving United States Senator in Oklahoma history reserves his rightful place in the record books, Jim Inhofe was also one of Tulsa’s most accomplished mayors.
He created the first city sales tax for capital improvements - the Third Penny - which has funded billions in street and infrastructure enhancements over the last half-century. He modernized our trash system, established our 9-1-1 call system, and created our Sister Cities program that went on to build cultural ties between our city and nearly every continent around the world.
My thoughts today are with Kay and the entire extended Inhofe family."

The University of Tulsa released this statement on the former Senator's death:

“Our hearts go out to the Inhofe family. I served alongside Jim in Washington and know he was committed to a prosperous state, a sound economy, and a strong military,” said University of Tulsa President Brad Carson. “As a TU alumnus, he was equally dedicated to the university and its mission as a top research institution.”

The Port of Muskogee provided the following statement:

Senator Inhofe was a political giant, a great statesman. He was a champion for the waterway and instrumental in getting things done and welcomed crossing party lines to ensure necessary infrastructure on the waterway was taken care of. He loved Oklahoma and you were able to see that through his tenacious spirit.   Senator Inhofe had a servant’s attitude. Robert S. Kerr was a visionary, always looking for ways to position Oklahoma as a contender for the global market. Like Senator/Governor Kerr, Senator Inhofe recognized Oklahoma’s potential as a global contender opening its doors via the navigable waterway (MKARNS). He will be remembered for his leadership in the Senate and his advocacy for the great State of Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation's Tim Gatz issued the following statement about his impact:

No one cared more deeply for Oklahomans and for our nation than Senator Inhofe. The department is grateful for his dedication and contributions to infrastructure while making certain Oklahoma was receiving its fair share of the federal transportation programs. We are well positioned for the future because of his efforts. He and his legacy will be dearly remembered and he will be absolutely missed. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation will keep the Senator’s family in our thoughts and prayers.
For many years Senator Inhofe served as chairman and ranking member of the Environment and Public Works committee and worked to craft major pieces of transportation and infrastructure legislation that benefited all corners of the state. He was key in creating and securing large funding packages across multiple administrations. Most recently, he helped ODOT receive a BUILD grant to replace the Bridgeport Bridge on US-281/Route 66 prior to the celebration of the Mother Road. In 2022, work began on the more than $170 million I-40/Douglas interchange, to be complete in 2025, which the Oklahoma Legislature named 'The U.S. Senator James Inhofe Interchange,’ in his honor.

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