SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois' Michael Madigan is currently the longest-serving House speaker in the U.S. by nearly a decade, but he is not the longest-serving speaker ever.
The Chicago Democrat soon will mark three decades in the powerful position, though not in a consecutive run. He first took control in 1983, but his Democrats briefly lost the majority in 1995-96. He resumed as speaker the following year.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, South Carolina's Solomon Blatt is the longest known speaker, serving a total of 33 years. He was speaker from 1937-46 and 1951-73. Georgia's Tom Murphy also served about three decades as House speaker, from 1973 until 2002.
"We simply do not know for certain that there were not longer serving speakers in the 1700s and 1800s," said Tim Storey, an NCSL researcher. "It is very unlikely that there were, because legislators and leaders did not generally serve nearly as long then as they do today."
Among House speakers currently in office, the longest serving are:
• Michael Madigan, Illinois Democrat: 29 years. 1983-1995, 1997-present.
• Sheldon Silver, New York Democrat: 20 years. 1994-present.
• Frank Chopp, Washington Democrat: 15 years. Co-speaker 1999-2001, speaker 2001-present.
• Michael Busch, Maryland Democrat: 11 years. 2003-present.
• William Howell, Virginia Republican: 11 years. 2003-present.
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, University of South Carolina Law School, The Associated Press.