Longest-Serving Legislator In US History, Final WWII Veteran In Office Retires

REUTERS/Darren Hauck 7084012

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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World War II veteran Fred Risser, the longest-serving state or federal legislator in United States history, will retire on Jan. 4.

Risser, a Democrat from Madison, WI, has served in the Wisconsin State Legislature since 1956, first as a state assemblyman and then as a senator. He is also the last World War II veteran to hold elected office. Risser was Senate Minority Leader for eight years and Senate President for 25 years.

Upon announcing that he would not run for re-election in March, the 93 year-old told the Wisconsin State Journal, “It was a difficult decision… I always knew from the time that I was born that I would be involved in some type of political service. I was honored that the people of this district allowed me to serve that long.” (RELATED: Wisconsin Senate Can Eliminate Collective Bargaining For Teachers—Even Without Democrats Who Fled)

Risser served as a Navy medic in Rhode Island and Panama, graduating from boot camp just before World War II ended. “The Germans and the Japanese saw me coming,” he joked in a 2013 interview with State Legislatures Magazine.

After his time in the service ended, Risser attended the University of Oregon under the GI Bill before returning to Wisconsin. The lawmaker’s alma mater congratulated him on his retirement on Twitter.

The Wisconsin legislature was a family business for Risser, whose father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all served in the legislature. Colonel Clement E. Warner, Risser’s great-grandfather, fought in the Civil War for the 36th Wisconsin Infantry before entering politics, according to records from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Former state representative Kelda Roys will replace Risser in 2021, reports the Wisconsin State Journal. The retiree told the State Journal that he looks forward to spending time with his wife, gardening, and traveling.