Saxby Chambliss’ retirement a blow to the great name caucus

January 25, 2013

Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss' retirement will set off a very competitive Republican primary race to replace him. And, his departure will further spur the narrative that Republican politicians who demonstrate any willingness to compromise are an endangered political species.


Saxby Chambliss is a great name. REUTERS

But, the Chambliss' departure is also a major blow to the caucus of great-named Senators.  (Yes, The Fix spends a fair amount of time thinking about things like this.)

Saxby is actually the senator from Georgia's middle name. His given first name is Clarence. Chambliss's maternal grandfather was Clarence Saxby Anderson.

In the past 15 years or so, the Senate has been robbed of some of its most legendary figures but also some of its great names.  At the start of the 105th Congress, which convened in January 1997, these were among the first names of the Senators: Strom, Fritz, Wendell, Dale, Alfonse, Arlen, Kit, Slade, Connie (or should we say Cornelius McGillicuddy), Conrad, Ben Nighthorse, Lauch, Dirk and Olympia.

Go back to 25 years -- to the start of the 100th Congress in 1987 -- and you get this litany of awesome Senate names: Howell, Chic, Lowell, Lawton, Quentin, Spark, Brock and our leader in the clubhouse for the greatest name for a Senator ever: Claiborne Pell.

We leave it to others to draw conclusions about what the vanilla-ing of the names of U.S. Senate means. We also accept the likely possibility it means nothing at all.

And, yes, we still have Rand, Mazie, Sherrod, Sheldon, Orrin and Lamar(!) to sustain us in the 113th Congress.  But, today is a day to mourn the loss of one of the great names of the Senate.  Saxby, we will never see your like again. Literally. There are fewer than 2,000 people named "Saxby" in America.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Sean Sullivan | January 25, 2013