Two Ways to Measure Tenure

A follow-up to the recent post about legislator age statistics… another interesting way to look at the Legislature and the passage of time is to look at the members who had the longest legislative careers.

But, as with everything else, there are multiple ways to measure “the longest legislative careers”; the easiest way to explain it is “Time in Office” vs. “Length of Career.”

Ralph Dills

The first and most common way to measure career longevity is to look at how long a member held elected office. That’s how we do it on JoinCalifornia’s Longest Terms in Office page. The longest-serving state legislator is Ralph Dills, who was a member of the Legislature for 42 years and 18 weeks. The top 25 officeholders by this measure are:

25 Legislators with the Longest Time in Office:

Legislator Time in Office
1 Dills, Ralph C. 42 years, 18 weeks
2 Thomas, Vincent 37 years, 48 weeks
3 Vasconcellos, John 37 years, 48 weeks
4 Petris, Nicholas C. 37 years, 48 weeks
5 Collier, Randolph 37 years, 48 weeks
6 Marks, Milton 37 years, 48 weeks
7 Slater, Herbert W. 36 years, 32 weeks
8 Greene, Leroy F. 35 years, 48 weeks
9 Lyon, Charles W. 34 years, 0 weeks
10 Burns, Hugh M. 34 years, 0 weeks
11 Alquist, Alfred E. 33 years, 48 weeks
12 Maloney, Thomas A. 32 years, 0 weeks
13 Donnelly, Hugh P. 32 years, 0 weeks
14 Russell, Newton R. 31 years, 48 weeks
15 Collier, John L. E. 31 years, 48 weeks
16 Brown, Willie L. 30 years, 50 weeks
17 Crittenden, Bradford S. 30 years, 0 weeks
18 Parkman, Harry L. 30 years, 0 weeks
19 Grunsky, Donald L. 29 years, 48 weeks
20 Beverly, Robert G. 29 years, 30 weeks
21 McBride, James J. 28 years, 24 weeks
22 Hawkins, Augustus F. 28 years, 0 weeks
23 Swing, Ralph E. 28 years, 0 weeks
24 Stiern, Walter W. 27 years, 48 weeks
25 Lanterman, Frank 27 years, 48 weeks

 

Jess Dorsey

Alternatively, you look at the total time that passed between when the elected official’s first day in office and their last. Probably not surprisingly, Dills appears at the top of this list, having a career that stretched over nearly 60 years (his service as a lawmaker was interrupted between 1949 and 1966 while he was serving as a Los Angeles County Municipal Court judge.

You’ll see some new names on this list, including Frederick Lux, who served in the Assembly in the 1860s and again 1903 and Jess R. Dorsey, who was first elected to the Assembly in 1902 and died in office in 1958.

25 Legislators with the Longest Careers:

Legislator Time Between Assuming to Leaving Office Time in Office
1 Dills, Ralph C. 59 years, 48 weeks 42.35
2 Dorsey, Jesse R. 55 years, 38 weeks 19.75
3 Dymally, Mervyn M. 45 years, 47 weeks 18.02
4 Coombs, Frank L. 43 years, 51 weeks 18
5 Clarke, George A. 43 years, 50 weeks 22
6 Godfrey, George B. 41 years, 51 weeks 2
7 Lux, Frederick 41 years, 50 weeks 4
8 Lyon, Charles W. 39 years, 51 weeks 34
9 Phelps, Timothy Guy 39 years, 50 weeks 7
10 Burton, John L. 39 years, 48 weeks 26.48
11 Vasconcellos, John 37 years, 48 weeks 37.92
12 Petris, Nicholas C. 37 years, 48 weeks 37.92
13 Collier, Randolph 37 years, 48 weeks 37.92
14 Thomas, Vincent 37 years, 47 weeks 37.92
15 Marks, Milton 37 years, 45 weeks 37.92
16 Slater, Herbert W. 36 years, 32 weeks 36.62
17 Treacy, Timothy E. 35 years, 51 weeks 3.83
18 Greene, Leroy F. 35 years, 47 weeks 35.92
19 Burns, Hugh M. 33 years, 51 weeks 34
20 Nielsen, Roy J. 33 years, 51 weeks 22
21 Durst, D. P. 33 years, 50 weeks 3
22 Bane, Tom 33 years, 48 weeks 24
23 Alquist, Alfred E. 33 years, 47 weeks 33.92
24 Johnson, Grove L. 33 years, 3 weeks 15
25 May, William B. 32 years, 50 weeks 11

Please note: the list above includes only legislators who have left office (and does not include Senator Jim Nielsen (who has served a total of 18.9 years in the California Legislature over a period of 37 years).