Published on September 1, 2013 by Amy
Thomas Jeffery Cole (born April 28, 1949) is the U.S. Representative for Oklahoma’s 4th congressional district, serving since 2003. He is a member of the Republican Party. He is a Deputy Majority Whip. The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) from 2006 to 2008, he was, during his tenure, the fourth-ranking Republican leader in the House. As of 2012, Cole – a member of the Chickasaw Nation – is one of only two registered Native Americans in Congress (the other being fellow Oklahoman Markwayne Mullin).
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Although born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Cole is a fifth-generation Oklahoman, having been raised in Moore, Oklahoma. He graduated from Grinnell College in 1971 with a B.A. in history. His postgraduate degrees include an M.A. from Yale University (1974) and a Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma (1984), both in British history. Cole did research abroad as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow and was a Fulbright Fellow (1977–78) at the University of London. He was a college professor in history and politics before becoming a politician.
Following his mother Helen, who served as a state representative and senator, Cole served in the Oklahoma Senate from 1988 to 1991, resigning mid-term to accept a job in Washington. From 1995 to 1999, he was Oklahoma’s Secretary of State under Governor Frank Keating, and assisted with the recovery efforts following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. He has also served as Chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party.
Cole has been heavily involved in national politics as well, having served both as Executive Director of the NRCC and as Chief of Staff of the Republican National Committee (RNC).
Cole spent two years working as a paid consultant for the United States Chamber of Commerce, but his primary involvement in politics was as a political consultant for candidates. Along with partners Sharon Hargrave Caldwell and Deby Snodgrass, his firm (Cole, Hargrave, Snodgrass and Associates) played a large part in the reconstruction of Oklahoma’s political landscape, and backed a number of candidates that took office during the Republican Revolution of 1994. Among their clients have been Keating, J.C. Watts, Tom Coburn, Frank Lucas, Mary Fallin, Wes Watkins, Steve Largent, former Mississippi congressman Chip Pickering, and Hawaii governor Linda Lingle.