Childhood & Early Life
Jefferson Beauregard 'Jeff' Sessions III was born on December 24, 1946, in Selma, Alabama to general store owner Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, Jr. and Abbie Powe. A very active Boy Scout, he became an Eagle Scout in 1964 and after many years of service, received the 'Distinguished Eagle Scout Award'.
He attended Wilcox County High School in Camden and then enrolled into Huntingdon College in Montgomery, where he was an active member of the Young Republican National Federation and served as the student body president. After completing his graduation with a B.A. degree in 1969, he entered University of Alabama School of Law and earned a J.D. degree in 1973.
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Legal & Political Career
During his early career, Jeff Sessions practiced as an attorney in Russellville as well as in Mobile, and also served in the Army Reserve in the 1970s, achieving the rank of a captain. In 1975, he became an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama.
He was nominated by President Ronald Reagan as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama in 1981 and served in the post for 12 years. Early on, he was blamed for selective prosecution as he unsuccessfully prosecuted three African-American community organizers for voter fraud, while not prosecuting two Ku Klux Klan members charged for the murder of a black man.
In 1986, Reagan nominated him to be a judge of the U.S. District Court for the same region, but he became the second nominee in 48 years to be rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee. While he apologized for a comment in which he appeared to condone the KKK, four Department of Justice lawyers who had worked with him testified that he often made racially offensive remarks.
In November 1994, he defeated Democrat Jimmy Evans by bagging 57% vote share and was elected Attorney General of Alabama. Soon after, he hired private lawyers to challenge a 1993 court decision that sought to equalize funding for poor community schools, mostly attended by black students, and wealthier ones, but the move was declared unconstitutional.
He won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in 1996 and later, during the general election in November, defeated Democrat Roger Bedford. Also that year, he cited "violation of state law" after the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance sued Alabama for attempting to deny funding to student organizations supporting homosexuality, but the law was ultimately ruled unconstitutional.
In 2002, he defeated Democratic State Auditor Susan Parker to get reelected to the senate, a feat he repeated in the 2008 elections as well by defeating Democratic State Senator Vivian Davis Figures. He was uncontested in the Republican preliminary in 2014, and won another term by defeating write-in Democratic candidate Victor Sanchez Williams in the general elections.
In late February 2016, he officially endorsed Donald Trump’s presidential run, becoming the first senator to do so, and was on the short list to become Trump's running mate, but lost to Mike Pence.
On November 18, 2016, President-elect Trump nominated him to be Attorney General of the United States, which was immediately protested by numerous civil and human rights organizations due to his past records.
Amidst protests and accusations of collusion with Russia during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, his nomination was confirmed by Senate on February 8, 2017. After more reports surfaced on his meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice, members from both parties demanded that he recuses himself from investigations into Russia's interference in the elections.
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He announced his decision to recuse himself on March 2, 2017, and one week later, delivered a memo to the President recommending the firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the investigations. While Trump fired Comey immediately, he publicly stated that he would not have appointed Sessions as attorney general if he knew he would recuse himself, which prompted a resignation offer from Sessions, but was declined.
Policies Taken as Attorney General
On March 10, 2017, Jeff Sessions oversaw the firing of 46 Obama-era US Attorneys who were abruptly asked to resign by Trump. A month later, he disbanded the National Commission on Forensic Science and ended review of the forensic accuracy, following which he was accused of taking 'science' out of Forensic Science.
He has been a staunch opponent of illegal immigration and warned on March 27, 2017 that cities failing to comply with federal immigration policy would lose federal funding. In June 2018, amidst uproar against Trump government's decision to separate children from detained families at the border, he was criticized by religious heads and scholars for citing out-of-context Biblical quote to defend the policy.
In May 2017, he overturned his predecessor Eric Holder's memo to curb mass incarceration by avoiding mandatory sentencing and ordered that federal prosecutors seek the maximum criminal charges possible. In February 2018, he opposed the bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act bill, and the following month, issued a memo urging prosecutors to seek capital punishment against major drug dealers.
Also, in May 2017, he urged congressional leaders to repeal the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment to allow the Justice Department to prosecute providers of medical marijuana. Later, in January 2018, he rescinded the Cole Memorandum to allow federal prosecutors bring charges against state legalized marijuana use.
A climate change skeptic, he has voted in favor of legislation that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. He also voted to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1969, Jeff Sessions married Mary Blackshear, a teacher, whom he had met at Huntingdon College. They have three children: Mary, Ruth and Sam Sessions, as well as ten grandchildren.
Both, he and his wife are United Methodists and are members at the Ashland Place United Methodist Church in Mobile. He is also a Sunday school teacher at the church.