19th Century Era
6. Jefferson Davis, D-Miss., 1808-89: A two-term senator viewed as the leader of the South in Congress, Davis wound up becoming the president of the Confederacy. Davis had been part of the "Committee of Thirteen" to try and avoid war, but once Mississippi voted to secede from the union, he resigned his Senate seat. His farewell address, just two months before Abraham Lincoln was sworn in for his first term, is regarded as one of the most dramatic events in Senate history. There was a palpable sense of the bloodshed to come as the six-minute address was met with a long silence. In one line, Davis said the United States should not interfere with the southern states’ decision to secede or it would "bring disaster on every portion of the country." Ironically, as secretary of war under President Franklin Pierce, Davis oversaw the building of the House and Senate wings at the Capitol.
11. James Buchanan, D-Pa., 1791-1868: Buchanan is better known for being the nation’s 15th president, for being the president who was in office right before the outbreak of the Civil War, and for being among the worst presidents in U.S. history. But he also served for more than 10 years in the Senate (1834-1845), where he chaired the Foreign Relations Committee and sympathized with pro-slavery senators (even though he personally opposed slavery). Buchanan also served as secretary of state (under President James Polk) and minister to Great Britain (under Franklin Pierce).
20th Century Era
6. Claude Pepper, D-Fla., 1900-89: A devoted liberal and supporter of FDR’s New Deal and foreign policy, Pepper served in the Senate from 1936-1951. But after losing his re-election bid and going into private law practice, Pepper won a U.S. House seat representing the Miami area, serving from 1963 until his death. In particular, Pepper was known as being a champion of the elderly, Social Security, and Medicare.
11. Mike Mansfield, D-Mont., 1903-2001: Succeeding Lyndon Johnson as Senate majority leader after LBJ was elected vice president, Mansfield helped deliver many of the Great Society’s legislative accomplishments -- like Medicare and Medicaid. He also played a key role in breaking the filibuster against the civil-rights legislation.
6. Howard Baker, R-Tenn., 1925-present: The first Republican senator to be popularly elected in Tennessee, Baker served as the GOP’s Senate leader in the 1970s and 1980s – as both minority leader (1977-1981) and majority leader (1981-1985). He was vice chair on the Senate’s famous Watergate committee, asking the question: “What did the president know and when did he know it?” After his tenure in the Senate, Baker was chief of staff to Ronald Reagan (1987-1988). He was married to the daughter of Senate Madness #2 seed Everett Dirksen (the late Joy Dirksen Baker), and he’s currently married to former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker (R-Kan.).
11. Joe Biden, D-Del., 1942-present: Biden is currently vice president, but before that, he was a well-known fixture in the U.S. Senate for 36 years. First elected at the age of 29, Biden authored the 1994 crime bill, as well as the Violence Against Women Act (which Congress just reauthorized). Biden, who ran for president twice unsuccessfully, also served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Foreign Relations Committee.
6. William Borah, R-Idaho, 1865-1940: In addition to Robert La Follette, Borah was one of the most well-known senators of the Progressive Era. Nicknamed “the Lion of Idaho,” Borah was instrumental in passing two constitutional amendments -- the graduated income tax and the direct election of senators. He also led the opposition to the United States’ participation in the League of Nations.
11. Reed Smoot, R-Utah, 1862-1941: He was best known for co-authoring the Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930, which raised tariffs on foreign products during the early years of the Great Depression. The law helped restrict and worsen the Great Depression. Smoot’s Mormon faith – he was a leader in the church – was questioned during a Senate inquiry known as the “Smoot Hearings.”