JACKSON — Rose Clayton Cochran — who became a focal point in the re-election campaign of her husband, Sen. Thad Cochran, when a man was accused of taking bedridden photos of her to use against the Republican — has died. She was 73.
She died Friday at a hospice facility in Ridgeland, Mississippi, after a long battle with dementia, the senator’s spokesman, Chris Gallegos, said.
Daughter Kate Cochran, an associate professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, posted on Facebook a photo of her holding her mother’s hand.
“My beloved mother died this morning, after two weeks in hospice care. I took this picture a few days ago because a friend of mine remembered how beautiful her hands were,” she wrote.
From Washington, where he was waiting Friday to vote on a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown, Cochran, 77, issued a brief statement saying that he and his family are grateful to those who cared for his wife during her extended illness. She had lived in a nursing home for 13 years. Cochran remained in Mississippi after Thanksgiving to spend time with his family and had returned to Washington on Monday to deal with the budget and other issues, Gallegos said.
During the senator’s campaign this year, a man was arrested and accused of sneaking in to the nursing home, taking pictures of a bedridden Rose Cochran without permission, and posting her image on the Internet for a brief time as part of a political video criticizing the six-term senator.
Investigators have said conspirators intended to use images to advance allegations that her husband was having an inappropriate relationship. Thad Cochran has denied any inappropriate acts.
Clayton Kelly, a supporter of Cochran’s GOP primary opponent Chris McDaniel, was indicted in October on charges of burglary, attempted burglary and conspiracy. If convicted on all three counts, he faces a maximum 55 years in prison. A trial is scheduled for March.
The conspiracy count accuses Kelly of working with John Bertram Mary, a talk radio host, who has since pleaded guilty in exchange for five years’ probation and no jail time.
Ridgeland attorney Mark Mayfield also was charged with conspiracy but later committed suicide.
Cochran defeated McDaniel in the June 24 Republican primary runoff, then won a seventh term in November.
Rose Cochran’s funeral services are 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Jackson. Burial will be in New Albany.
The Cochrans had been married since 1964. They have two children and three grandchildren. Rose Cochran was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up in New Albany, Mississippi, and graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1963. The couple had met at Ole Miss, where Sen. Cochran attended law school.
Rose Cochran taught high school Spanish and English in Oxford, Mississippi, before the couple moved to Jackson, where Thad Cochran had joined a law firm. She was working at the Mississippi Department of Welfare when the family moved to Washington after Cochran was elected to the U.S. House in 1972. He was elected to the Senate in 1978.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement that he and his wife, Deborah, were saddened to hear of Rose Cochran’s death.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Thad and his family. Rose was a gracious and humble lady who should be long remembered for her caring and gentle spirit,” Bryant said.
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