On June 21 2021, journalist Michael Harriot retweeted a Politico tweet about Iowa’s “longest serving senator” of Republican Chuck Grassley. Harriot added that Grassley was eight years older than Emmett Till:
Harriot’s commentary was added to Politico’s June 20 2021 tweet, which linked to a June 20 2021 article (“Iowa poll shows drop in support for Grassley”), which explained that Grassley had been in office for more than 40 years:
Almost two-thirds of likely Iowa voters polled say it is time for someone other than Chuck Grassley to serve in the U.S. Senate, casting doubt on the prospects of the longest-serving senator in the state’s history.
Grassley was first elected in 1980, unseating Democratic incumbent John Culver in the year of Ronald Reagan’s presidential landslide win. He is the longest-serving Republican in the Senate — second only to Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy in current seniority — and 10th on the all-time seniority list. Grassley is also the second-oldest member of the Senate, a few months shy of California Democrat Dianne Feinstein.
As Politico reported, Grassley was the longest serving senator in the state of Iowa. On Wikipedia’s list of “members of the United States Congress by longevity of service,” Grassley ranked at 16 at 46 years and 168 days in elected office; Democratic Senator John Dingell of Michigan was at number one with 59 years and 21 days of service.
Emmett Till, whose abduction and murder considerably galvanized the civil rights movement, was born on July 25 1941. He was fourteen when he was murdered in August 1955, and would turn 80 in July 2021.
Till was referenced in a viral April 2021 tweet linking notable individuals in the movement:
According to Sen. Chuck Grassley’s official biography on grassley.senate.gov, Iowa’s longest serving senator was born prior to Till, on September 17 1933. As of June 21, Grassley was 87, and would turn 88 in September 2021:
Chuck Grassley was born September 17, 1933, on a farm in Butler County, Iowa, where he continues to farm today. Coming of age on the heels of the Great Depression instilled principles of conservationism and fiscal conservatism. He was also brought up in a household that valued hard work and civic engagement. His mother, Ruth, was one of the first four women in Iowa to cast a vote following the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.
In the interest of precision (and due to Grassley’s birthday falling later in the calendar year than Till’s), we calculated the span of time between the birth of Grassley and Till. Grassley was seven years and ten months older than Till, reasonably rounded to “eight” in the tweet.
Although Emmett Till’s murder and the events that followed are often framed as distant history, it is true that Sen. Chuck Grassley was less than a decade older than Emmett tieight years older than Till. Additionally, when this tweet appeared in June 2021, Grassley was still serving in the Senate, his 88th birthday less than two months away.