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What's in a Name? From Abraham to Zell, 100 Years of U.S. Senators

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John, William, and James are the most common of the 313 different first names used by the more than 875 Senators elected or appointed during the last 100 years; trending: Mark and Mike

If one called out "Hey Senator!" from the press gallery of the U.S. Senate as the 112th Congress convenes on Wednesday, 100 pairs of ears might perk up.

But if one yelled, "Hey John," you'd still get more than 10 Senators peering up from their desks.

For while the Senate has seen plenty of colorful politicians - with many colorful names - pass through its chamber over the past century, the most common name has been, and still is, "John."

A Smart Politics review finds 884 different men and women with 313 different first names have been elected or appointed to the U.S. Senate over the last 100 years, with "John" coming in at #1.

In total, there have been 65 senators named John (or its variations Jon, Jonathan, or Johnny) since popular vote elections were introduced a century ago, or 7.4 percent of all senators holding office during that stretch.

The next most common names are:

· #2: William (or Bill) with 50 (5.7 percent)
· #3: James (Jim) with 44 (5.0 percent)
· #4: Robert (Bob, Rob) with 34 (3.9 percent)
· #5: Thomas (Tom) with 29 (3.3 percent)
· #6: George with 25 (2.8 percent)

Although more than 300 different first names were added to the rolls over the past century, half of the 880 men and women serving in the Senate are captured by the Top 20 most common names.

In addition to the six listed above, the next 14 most popular names are Charles (Chuck), Joseph (Joe), Frank, Edward (Ted), Richard (Rick, Dick), David (Dave), Frederick (Fred, Frederic), Paul, Henry, Michael (Mike), Harry, Samuel (Sam), Daniel (Dan), and Arthur.

Still, taking both the long view and the short view, Johns have been and continue to be in the plurality.

The 112th Congress adds two new faces to nine returning Senators with that name: John McCain (AZ), Jon Kyl (AZ), John Kerry (MA), John ("Johnny") Isakson (GA), Jon Tester (MT), John Ensign (NV), John Thune (SD), John Cornyn (TX), John Barrasso (WY), and first term Senators John Boozman (AR) and John Hoeven (ND).

But Johns may not always rule the roost in the Senate: the Social Security Administration (SSA) finds John to be only the 26th most popular boys name given in 2009 - down from #20 in 2008, #19 in 2006 and 2007, #18 in 2004 and 2005, #17 in 2002 and 2003, and #14 in 2000 and 2001.

And what names are moving more quickly on their way out among D.C.'s political elite?

Despite ranking at #2 with 50 Senators over the past 100 years, William (or Bill) is currently only represented by one Senator in the 112th Congress (Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida).

William might make a comeback down the road, however, as it was listed as the fifth most common boys name in 2009 by the SSA.

Disappearing altogether, however, is "George" - the sixth most common name over the last 100 years in the Senate, tallying 25 Senators during this stretch, but not one in 2011.

Recently retired Republican Senators George Voinovich (OH) and George LeMieux (FL) have left the upper chamber without a Senator paying tribute to the first name of the nation's first president.

According to the SSA, George was the 163rd most popular boy name of 2009 (and declining).

Of course, in addition to shifting cultural trends influencing the names given at birth (Hello "Senator Aiden" in 2040?), the number of different names of U.S. Senators will continue to expand particularly as more and more women and members of different races and ethnicities ascend into office.

Twenty-seven current members of the Senate are the only ones to be have been elected or appointed with their first name over the past 100 years, of which 13 are women:

Amy Klobuchar (MN), Bernie Sanders (VT), Claire McCaskill (MO), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Jay Rockefeller (WV), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Jerry Moran (KS), Kelly Ayotte (NH), Kent Conrad (ND), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Lamar Alexander (TN), Lindsey Graham (SC), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Marco Rubio (FL), Maria Cantwell (WA), Mary Landrieu (LA), Mitch McConnell (KY), Olympia Snowe (ME), Orrin Hatch (UT), Patty Murray (WA), Rand Paul (KY), Roy Blunt (MO), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Sherrod Brown (OH), and Susan Collins (ME).

And what names are trending upwards?

"Mark" is one name definitely on the rise in the U.S. Senate, with five current Senators holding that name out of just eight Senators during the past century: Begich (AK), Pryor (AR), Udall (CO), Kirk (IL), and Warner (VA). (Former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton also had a good year, getting elected Governor of Minnesota).

Another name on the upswing is "Mike" (or "Michael") - with five of the 10 Senators with that first name over the past 100 years currently serving in the Senate: Bennet (CO), Crapo (ID), Johanns (NE), Lee (UT), and Enzi (WY).

Names became a big story in Alaska's 2010 U.S. Senate race, where many believed that the (successful) write-in candidacy of Republican Lisa Murkowski might be thwarted due to her unusual (and relatively difficult to spell) surname.

An aggressive voter education campaign was launched by the Last Frontier State's senior senator, which proved the critics wrong as she defeated her (much more commonly named) Republican opponent Joe Miller by more than 10,000 votes.

But despite all the Johns and Richards and Roberts, American electoral history over the 20th and 21st Centuries finds that for every Scott Brown (MA) there is a Spessard Holland (FL).

And while there will probably always be a Tim Johnson (SD) or Ron Johnson (WI) the American public will still take the occasional liking to a Furnifold Simmons (NC), a Zales Ecton (MT), or even a Barack Obama (IL).

However, some individuals have names that are so unusual, perhaps their only hope to becoming Senator is through appointment. Calling:

Xenophon Wilfley, a Democratic Senator from Missouri appointed in 1918 to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Senator William Stone.

Wilfley served for a little more than six months, but was an unsuccessful candidate for nomination to fill the vacancy.

Top 50 Most Common First Names of U.S. Senators Elected or Appointed Since Popular Vote Elections

Rank
Name
#
%
112th
1
John (Jon, Jonathan)
65
7.4
11
2
William (Bill)
50
5.7
1
3
James (Jim)
44
5.0
4
4
Rob (Robert, Bob)
34
3.9
4
5
Thomas (Tom)
29
3.3
4
6
George
25
2.8
 
7
Charles (Chuck)
22
2.5
2
8
Joseph (Joe)
21
2.4
2
9
Frank
17
1.9
1
10
Richard (Rick, Dick)
16
1.8
5
11
Edward (Ted)
15
1.7
 
12
David (Dave)
13
1.5
1
13
Frederick (Fred, Frederic)
12
1.4
 
13
Paul
12
1.4
 
15
Henry
11
1.3
 
16
Michael (Mike)
10
1.1
5
16
Harry
10
1.1
1
16
Samuel (Sam)
10
1.1
 
19
Daniel (Dan)
9
1.0
3
19
Arthur
9
1.0
 
21
Mark
8
0.9
5
22
Patrick (Pat)
7
0.8
3
22
Benjamin (Ben)
7
0.8
2
24
Edwin
6
0.7
 
24
Ernest
6
0.7
 
24
Francis
6
0.7
 
24
Howard
6
0.7
 
24
Peter (Pete)
6
0.7
 
24
Ralph
6
0.7
 
24
Walter
6
0.7
 
31
Albert
5
0.6
1
31
Herbert (Herb)
5
0.6
1
31
Lawrence (Larry)
5
0.6
 
34
Carl
4
0.5
1
34
Alan
4
0.5
 
34
Donald (Don)
4
0.5
 
34
Guy
4
0.5
 
34
Hugh
4
0.5
 
34
Kenneth (Ken)
4
0.5
 
34
Theodore (Ted)
4
0.7
 
34
Warren
4
0.5
 
42
Jeff
3
0.3
3
42
Roger
3
0.3
1
42
Scott
3
0.3
1
42
Tim
3
0.3
1
42
Clyde
3
0.3
 
42
Gordon
3
0.3
 
42
Hiram
3
0.3
 
42
Homer
3
0.3
 
42
Jacob
3
0.3
 
42
Philip (Phil, Philips)
3
0.3
 
Data compiled by Smart Politics.

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