Dean of the United States House of Representatives

Last updated
Dean of the
United States House of Representatives
Don Young, official 115th Congress photo portrait.jpg
Don Young

since December 5, 2017 (2017-12-05)
United States House of Representatives
Member of United States House of Representatives
Seat Washington, D.C.
First holder Frederick Muhlenberg
March 4, 1789

The Dean of the United States House of Representatives is the longest continuously serving member of the House. The current Dean is Don Young, a Republican Party U.S. Representative from Alaska, who has served since 1973 and is the first Republican Dean in more than eighty years, as well as the first from Alaska. Additionally, with the death of John Conyers, Young is currently the only living Dean of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Dean is a symbolic post whose only customary duty is to swear in a Speaker of the House after they are elected. [1] This responsibility was first recorded in 1819 but has not been observed continuously at times, the Speaker-elect was the current Dean or the Speaker-elect preferred to be sworn in by a member of his own party when the Dean belonged to another party. The Dean comes forward on the House Floor to administer the oath to the Speaker-elect, before the new Speaker then administers the oath to the other members. [2]


While the Dean does swear in newly elected Speakers, they do not preside over the election of a Speaker, as do the Father of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom and the Dean of the Canadian House of Commons.

Because of other privileges associated with seniority, the Dean is usually allotted some of the most desirable office space, and is generally either chair or ranking minority member of an influential committee.

It is unclear when the position first achieved concrete recognition, though the seniority system and increasing lengths of service emerged in the early 20th century. As late as 1924, Frederick H. Gillett was Dean, and also Speaker, before becoming a Senator. Modern Deans move into their positions so late in their careers that a move to the Senate is highly unlikely. When Ed Markey broke Gillett's record for time in the House before moving to the Senate in 2013 he was still decades junior to the sitting Dean.

The Deanship can change hands unexpectedly. In the 1952 election, Adolph J. Sabath became the first Representative elected to a 24th term, breaking the record of 23 terms first set by former Speaker Joseph Gurney Cannon, whose service had been discontinuous, whereas Sabath's was not. North Carolina's Robert L. Doughton had not contested that election as he was retiring at the age of 89 years and two months, a House age record broken in 1998 by Sidney R. Yates, and again by Ralph Hall in 2012. Claude Pepper, who died early in his final term in 1989, held the record for oldest winner of a House election until Hall broke it in 2012. However, Sabath died before the new term began and Doughton was Dean for the old term's final months before Speaker Sam Rayburn became Dean in the new Congress.

In 1994, Texas Democrat Jack Brooks was defeated by Steve Stockman in the year he was expected to succeed Jamie Whitten as Dean. [3]

List of Deans of the House

Years as Dean are followed by name, party, state, and start of service in Congress.

All the members of the First Congress had equal seniority (as defined for the purpose of this article), but Muhlenberg, as the Speaker, was the first member to be sworn in. Muhlenberg, Hartley and Thatcher were among the 13 members who attended the initial meeting of the House on March 4, 1789.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, some state delegations to the House were often not elected until after the term had begun. To avoid confusion, this fact is ignored in the list below.

Became DeanLeft HouseDeanPartyStateSeniority dateSpeaker(s)
March 1789March 1797 Frederick Muhlenberg [upper-alpha 1] Federalist Pennsylvania March 4, 1789Frederick Muhlenberg (PA-PA) – 1789
Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. (PA-CT) – 1791
Frederick Muhlenberg (AA-PA) – 1793
Jonathan Dayton (F-NJ) – 1795
March 1797December 1800 Thomas Hartley [upper-alpha 2] [upper-alpha 3] Federalist Pennsylvania March 4, 1789Jonathan Dayton (F-NJ) – 1797
Theodore Sedgwick (F-MA) – 1799
March 1801 George Thatcher Federalist Massachusetts
March 1801March 1803 William B. Grove [upper-alpha 3] Federalist North Carolina March 4, 1791Nathaniel Macon (DR-NC) – 1801, 1803, 1805
Joseph Bradley Varnum (DR-MA) – 1807, 1809
Henry Clay (DR-KY) – 1811, 1813
Langdon Cheves (DR-SC) – 1814
March 1807 Andrew Gregg [upper-alpha 3] Democratic-Republican Pennsylvania
December 1815 Nathaniel Macon [upper-alpha 4] Democratic-Republican North Carolina
December 1815April 1816 Richard Stanford [upper-alpha 2] Democratic-Republican North Carolina March 4, 1797Henry Clay (DR-KY) – 1815
April 1816March 1817 John Davenport Federalist Connecticut March 4, 1799 
March 1817March 1830 Thomas Newton, Jr. Democratic-Republican;
Virginia March 4, 1801Henry Clay (DR-KY) – 1817, 1819
John W. Taylor (DR-NY) – 1820
Philip Pendleton Barbour (DR-VA) – 1821
Henry Clay (DR-KY) – 1823
John W. Taylor (NR-NY) – 1825
Andrew Stevenson (D-VA) – 1827, 1829
March 1830March 1833 William McCoy Jacksonian Virginia March 4, 1811Andrew Stevenson (D-VA) – 1831
March 1833February 1842 Lewis Williams [upper-alpha 2] National Republican;
Whig; Democratic
North Carolina March 4, 1815Andrew Stevenson (D-VA) – 1833
John Bell (W-TN) – 1834
James K. Polk (D-TN) – 1835, 1837
Robert M. T. Hunter (W-VA) – 1839
John White (W-KY) – 1841
February 1842March 1843 Horace Everett [upper-alpha 3] Whig Vermont March 4, 1829 John Winston Jones (D-VA) – 1843
April 1844 Dixon H. Lewis Democratic Alabama
April 1844February 1848 John Quincy Adams [upper-alpha 3] Whig Massachusetts March 4, 1831 John Wesley Davis (D-IN) – 1845
Robert Charles Winthrop (W-MA) – 1847
March 1849 James I. McKay Democratic North Carolina
March 1849March 1855 Linn Boyd [upper-alpha 5] Democratic Kentucky March 4, 1839 Howell Cobb (D-GA) – 1849
Linn Boyd (D-KY) – 1851, 1853
March 1855March 1859 Joshua Reed Giddings Republican Ohio May 5, 1842 Nathaniel Prentice Banks (A-MA) – 1856
James Lawrence Orr (D-SC) – 1857
March 1859March 1863 John S. Phelps Democratic Missouri March 4, 1845 William Pennington (R-NJ) – 1860
Galusha A. Grow (R-PA) – 1861
March 1863March 1869 Elihu B. Washburne Republican Illinois March 4, 1853 Schuyler Colfax (R-IN) – 1863, 1865, 1867
Theodore Medad Pomeroy (R-NY) – 1869
March 1869March 1875 Henry L. Dawes Republican Massachusetts March 4, 1857 James G. Blaine (R-ME) – 1869, 1871, 1873
Joseph H. Rainey (R-SC) – 1874
James G. Blaine (R-ME) – 1874
March 1875January 1890 William D. Kelley [upper-alpha 2] Republican Pennsylvania March 4, 1861 Michael C. Kerr (D-IN) – 1875
Samuel J. Randall (D-PA) – 1876, 1877, 1879
J. Warren Keifer (R-OH) – 1881
John Griffin Carlisle (D-KY) – 1883, 1885, 1887
Thomas Brackett Reed (R-ME) – 1889
January 1890April 1890 Samuel J. Randall [upper-alpha 2] Democratic Pennsylvania March 4, 1863 
April 1890March 1891 Joseph G. Cannon [upper-alpha 3] Republican Illinois March 4, 1873 Charles Frederick Crisp (D-GA) – 1891, 1893
March 1892 Roger Q. Mills [upper-alpha 3] Democratic Texas
March 1893 James H. Blount [upper-alpha 3] Democratic Georgia
March 1895 Richard P. Bland Democratic Missouri
March 1895March 1897 David B. Culberson Democratic Texas March 4, 1875Thomas Brackett Reed (R-ME) – 1895
March 1897September 1899 Thomas Brackett Reed [upper-alpha 6] Republican Maine March 4, 1877Thomas Brackett Reed (R-ME) – 1897
September 1899March 1912 Henry H. Bingham [upper-alpha 2] Republican Pennsylvania March 4, 1879 David B. Henderson (R-IA) – 1899, 1901
Joseph Gurney Cannon (R-IL) – 1903, 1905, 1907, 1909
Champ Clark (D-MO) – 1911
March 1912March 1913 John Dalzell Republican Pennsylvania March 4, 1887
March 1913December 1914 Sereno E. Payne [upper-alpha 2] Republican New York March 4, 1889Champ Clark (D-MO) – 1913
December 1914April 1918 William A. Jones [upper-alpha 2] Democratic Virginia March 4, 1891Champ Clark (D-MO) – 1915, 1917
April 1918March 1919 Henry Allen Cooper [upper-alpha 2] [upper-alpha 3] Republican Wisconsin March 4, 1893Frederick H. Gillett (R-MA) – 1919, 1921, 1923
March 1925 Frederick H. Gillett [upper-alpha 7] Republican Massachusetts
March 1925May 1928 Thomas S. Butler [upper-alpha 2] Republican Pennsylvania March 4, 1897 Nicholas Longworth (R-OH) – 1925, 1927
May 1928March 1933 Gilbert N. Haugen Republican Iowa March 4, 1899Nicholas Longworth (R-OH) – 1929
John Nance Garner (D-TX) – 1931
March 1933April 1934 Edward W. Pou [upper-alpha 2] Democratic North Carolina March 4, 1901 Henry T. Rainey (D-IL) – 1933
April 1934November 1952 Adolph J. Sabath [upper-alpha 2] Democratic Illinois March 4, 1907 Joseph W. Byrns (D-TN) – 1935
William B. Bankhead (D-AL) – 1936, 1937, 1939
Sam Rayburn (D-TX) – 1940, 1941, 1943, 1945
Joseph W. Martin, Jr. (R-MA) – 1947
Sam Rayburn (D-TX) – 1949, 1951
November 1952January 1953 Robert L. Doughton Democratic North Carolina March 4, 1911 
January 1953November 1961 Sam Rayburn [upper-alpha 8] [upper-alpha 2] Democratic Texas March 4, 1913Joseph W. Martin, Jr. (R-MA) – 1953
Sam Rayburn (D-TX) – 1955, 1957, 1959, 1961
November 1961January 1965 Carl Vinson [upper-alpha 9] Democratic Georgia November 3, 1914 John W. McCormack (D-MA) – 1962, 1963
January 1965January 1973 Emanuel Celler Democratic New York March 4, 1923John W. McCormack (D-MA) – 1965, 1967, 1969
Carl Albert (D-OK) – 1971
January 1973March 1976 Wright Patman [upper-alpha 2] Democratic Texas March 4, 1929Carl Albert (D-OK) – 1973, 1975
March 1976January 1979 George H. Mahon Democratic Texas January 3, 1935 Tip O'Neill (D-MA) – 1977
January 1979January 1995 Jamie Whitten [upper-alpha 9] Democratic Mississippi November 4, 1941Tip O'Neill (D-MA) – 1979, 1981, 1983, 1985
Jim Wright (D-TX) – 1987, 1989
Tom Foley (D-WA) – 1989, 1991, 1993
January 1995January 2015 John Dingell [upper-alpha 10] [upper-alpha 9] Democratic Michigan December 13, 1955 Newt Gingrich (R-GA) – 1995, 1997
Dennis Hastert (R-IL) – 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) – 2007, 2009
John Boehner (R-OH) – 2011, 2013
January 2015December 2017 John Conyers Democratic Michigan January 3, 1965John Boehner (R-OH) – 2015
Paul Ryan (R-WI) – 2015, 2017
December 2017Incumbent Don Young [upper-alpha 9] Republican Alaska March 6, 1973 Paul Ryan (R-WI) – 2017
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) – 2019, 2021


  1. Served as Speaker 1789–1791 and 1793–1795.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Died in office.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Never held sole deanship due to tie.
  4. Served as Speaker 1801–1807.
  5. Previously served in House 1835–1837; Served as Speaker 1851–1855.
  6. Served as Speaker 1889–1891 and 1895–1899.
  7. Served as Speaker 1919–1925.
  8. Served as Speaker 1955–1961.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Entered House to fill unexpired term.
  10. Longest serving House member ever and held the longest deanship.

See also

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  1. List at House official site that records the Dean (originally called "Father") and who swore in the Speaker for each Congress
  2. "Oath of Office - US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives". Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  3. Ron Hutcheson (July 25, 1994). "Texan in line as House dean – Jack Brooks has reputation as in-your-face politician". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. p. 1.