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Ralph Hall becomes oldest person to ever serve in US House

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WASHINGTON D.C. – Rockwall’s own U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, 89, became the oldest person to ever serve in the U.S. House of Representatives on Christmas Day, surpassing the record of North Carolina Rep. Charles Manly Stedman, who died in office in 1930 at age 89 years, 7 months and 25 days.

Hall, who turns 90 on May 3, became the oldest House member to ever cast a vote and speak on the House floor Nov. 27.

Voters re-elected him last November to a 17th term with 73 percent of the vote, and Hall says he may even run again.

“I’m just an old guy – lived pretty clean,” he said, before achieving his milestone. “I have no ailments. I don’t hurt anywhere. I may run again. I’ll just wait and see.”

Those close to the Rockwall Republican say he remains quite active.

Hall’s longtime chief of staff, Janet Perry Poppleton, and fellow members of the Texas congressional delegation, credit him for staying active and physically healthy.

“He says the good Lord gives him stamina,” she said. “He takes care of himself, exercises. He has a full agenda every day.”

Hall has chaired the House Science, Space and Technology Committee for the past two years, but he’ll soon step down as chairman because of term limits. Colleagues marvel at Hall’s stamina and joke about the stories he tells from his decades in public service.

“He gets up and does 50 pushups every day and runs two miles,” said Dallas Republican Rep. Pete Sessions.

When Hall was elected to the U.S. House in 1980 at the age of 57, he had already served in the Navy in World War II, built a successful business career and served in Texas’ state government for many years.

He served as Rockwall County Judge and later as a state senator before being elected to the U.S. House as a Democrat. He switched parties in 2004.

He graduated from Rockwall High School and eventually joined the Navy during World War II. He’s one of just two current U.S. House members to have served in that war. The other is 86-year-old John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, who is the longest-serving member of the House.

Prior to government service, Hall served as president and CEO of the Texas Aluminum Corp. and helped found Lakeside National Bank in Rockwall, among other private-sector achievements.

In 2008, his beloved wife and companion, Mary Ellen Hall, passed away. He keeps a black-and-white photo of himself in a Navy uniform next to her on his desk in a House committee hearing room.

By J.J. Smith

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