Born in 1941 in Grenada, Mississippi, Lott attended the University of Mississippi for his undergraduate and law school educations. He began his public service career soon out of law school, serving as an administrative assistant to Mississippi Congressman William Colmer. When Colmer, a Democrat, retired, Lott ran for his seat as a Republican. He was successful in his bid, becoming part of a shift to a two-party political system in the South. In 1974, Lott and Thad Cochran of Mississippi became the first two Republicans reelected to the Congress since Reconstruction. He was elected Minority Whip in the House in 1981, serving in that position until 1989, when he was elected to succeed Senator John Stennis. In the Senate, he held major leadership positions, serving as Majority Whip, then Majority Leader, and then Senate Minority Whip as control of the Senate shifted from the Republicans back to the Democrats. He was the first person to have served as whip in both houses. Lott resigned from the Senate in 2002 and is a partner in a lobbying firm in Washington today.