The U.S. Congress is the federal legislature of the United States. It's made up of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Most of the state legislators are also bicameral, including in Wisconsin, where the legislature is made up of the State Assembly and the State Senate. Fred Risser has been a mainstay in the Wisconsin State Legislature for decades. That's set to change on January 4.

Risser is stepping down

Fred Risser announced that he would not run for re-election in 2020. That choice is bringing an end to an epic political career.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, he's the longest-serving state or federal legislator in American history.

A Democrat, Risser holds the State Senate seat from the 26th District, based in Madison. Risser was first elected to the State Legislature as a member of the Assembly in 1956. He was first elected to the Senate in 1962 in a special election. Risser's predecessor, Horace W. Wilkie, had been appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. He was appointed by Governor Gaylord Nelson, who soon after became a U.S. senator and created Earth Day. Wilkie eventually became chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Risser has been president, president pro tempore, and minority leader of the Senate at varying times.

Before going into politics, he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. The Hill indicates that Risser is the last American World War II veteran serving in a state or federal legislature. With the G.I. Bill, he attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison—followed by Carleton College in Minnesota, the University of Oregon, and the University of Oregon School of Law.

Democratic former State Representative Kelda Roys was elected to succeed Risser.

Other legislators held office for several decades

The next longest-serving state legislators in American history appear to be Michael Kinney and Hugh Gillis. Kinney was a member of the Missouri Senate from 1913 to 1969. He was defeated in the 1968 Democratic primary by Raymond Howard, who won the general election.

Like Fred Risser, Howard had attended what is now the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Gillis was a member of the Georgia House of Representatives from 1941 to 1945 and 1949 to 1957. He was followed by being a member of the Georgia Senate from 1957 to 2005 when he retired. Along the way, he became its president pro tempore for a time.

Federally, the longest-serving U.S. legislator was Democrat John Dingell Jr. of Michigan. His father had been in Congress for more than 20 years before him. The younger Dingell's Congressional career lasted from 1955 to 2015. All of it in the House of Representatives, where he chaired the Energy and Commerce Committee on multiple occasions. The longest-serving active member of Congress is Alaska U.S.

Representative Don Young, a Republican. Young is a former chairman of the House Resources and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees.

Wisconsin's longest-serving federal legislator is also set to retire. That being Republican Jim Sensenbrenner. A U.S. representative since 1979, Sensenbrenner has chaired the House Science and Judiciary Committees. State Senate Majority Leader Scott L. Fitzgerald is slated to replace him. Sensenbrenner narrowly holds the record for Wisconsin over former Democratic U.S. Representative Dave Obey. Before retiring in 2011, Obey more than once chaired the House Appropriations Committee.