William Thad Cochran was born on Dec. 7, 1937, in Pontotoc, Miss., the older of two sons of William Cochran, a school principal in Beckham, and Emma (Berry) Cochran, a teacher. The family, which included another son, Nielson, settled in 1946 in Byram, near Jackson, where Thad attended high school. He was an Eagle Scout; played football, basketball, baseball and tennis; and was class valedictorian in 1955.
At the University of Mississippi, he majored in psychology and minored in political science, was vice president of the student government, joined the Navy R.O.T.C. and graduated with honors in 1959. He later served 18 months aboard a heavy cruiser.
He studied law on a fellowship for a year at Trinity College, Dublin, and earned his law degree at the University of Mississippi in 1965. He joined a prestigious law firm in Jackson, soon became a partner.
In 1964, he married Rose Clayton. They had two children, Clayton and Katherine. His wife died in 2014. In 2015, he married Kay Webber, his longtime administrative aide.
In addition to his wife and his two children, his survivors include three grandchildren.
A Senator and a Representative from Mississippi; born in Pontotoc, Pontotoc County, Miss., December 7, 1937; educated in the public schools of Mississippi; graduated, University of Mississippi, Oxford 1959 and the University of Mississippi Law School 1965; studied international law and jurisprudence at Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland 1963-1964; served in the United States Navy 1959-1961; admitted to the Mississippi bar in 1965 and commenced practice in Jackson; elected as a Republican to the Ninety-third Congress in 1972; reelected to the Ninety-fourth and Ninety-fifth Congresses and served from January 3, 1973, until his resignation on December 26, 1978; was not a candidate for reelection to the House of Representatives, but was elected in 1978 to the United States Senate for the term commencing January 3, 1979; subsequently appointed by the Governor, December 27, 1978, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of James O. Eastland for the term ending January 3, 1979; reelected in 1984, 1990, 1996, 2002, and again in 2008 for the term ending January 3, 2015; chair, Senate Republican Conference (1991-97), Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry (One Hundred Eighth Congress); Committee on Appropriations (One Hundred Ninth Congress).