Richard Shelby was born in Birmingham, Ala., and resides in Tuscaloosa. He attended the University of Alabama where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1957 and a law degree in 1963.
Shelby was a law clerk for the Alabama Supreme Court. He served as a Tuscaloosa city prosecutor from 1963 to 1971 and as U.S. magistrate in the Northern District of Alabama from 1966 to 1970. He was a special assistant attorney general in Alabama from 1969 to 1971 and served two terms in the state Senate from 1970 to 1978.
Shelby was elected to the U.S. House in 1978 and won re-election to three subsequent terms. He was elected to the Senate in 1986 as a Democrat, defeating Republican incumbent Jeremiah Denton. He switched to the Republican Party in 1994.
Shelby and his wife, Annette, have two children.
Richard Shelby began his political career as a Democrat before switching to the GOP in 1994.
As the senior Republican on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, he has been at the forefront of negotiations on overhauling rules for the financial industry. He voted against a Senate version of the bill in May 2010.
He said the Democratic plan failed to tighten controls over two large government-sponsored mortgage companies blamed for creating a demand for risky loans and inflating the housing bubble. He also criticized the bill's consumer protection provisions, saying they could affect businesses that are not primarily financial institutions.
Shelby is president of Tuscaloosa Title Co. The financial services legislation would put title companies under the oversight of a consumer protection agency.
He joined Senate Republicans in opposing the 2009 approximately $800 billion economic stimulus package pushed by President Barack Obama.
He called the package hastily designed and said he feared passage would "mark the day when our generation decided that we were not capable of enduring the consequences of our own actions." His opposition came despite the plan providing $3 billion to the state government in Alabama, preventing widespread layoffs of teachers and state workers.
Shelby opposed the auto industry bailout in late 2008. "It's the French model, it's the wrong road. We will pay for it," he said.
Unions countered that Alabama provided $788 million in tax breaks, infrastructure improvements and other subsidies to lure foreign auto manufacturers to the state.
Shelby also opposed the 2010 health care reform bill. In response to the June 2012 Supreme Court decision Shelby said, "The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the constitutionality of this law does not negate the fact that it is terrible policy." He advocates market-based reforms to the health care system.
In 2010, he successfully opposed Obama's nomination of Peter Diamond, winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, to serve on the board of the Federal Reserve, saying he lacked the necessary qualifications. Then in 2011, he joined other Republicans in blocking Obama's selection of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
In 2012, Shelby led efforts by the Republicans and some Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee to temporarily block the Obama administration's new labor-friendly rules protecting seasonal foreign workers. "These rules are grossly misguided and will have a serious adverse impact on businesses across the nation who benefit from the H-2B visa program," Shelby said.
Shelby served on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from 1995 to 2003. He helped sink Anthony Lake's nomination to CIA director in 1997 and was critical of CIA Director George Tenet after Sept. 11. When Tenet stepped down in 2004, Shelby said he was not surprised.
"What was a surprise was that he held onto the job as long as he did," Shelby said.
Though Shelby's votes are predictably Republican, he is not as staunch a follower as fellow Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions. Shelby, a former Tuscaloosa lawyer, often votes against efforts by other Republicans to limit damage awards from lawsuits.
He split with his fellow Republican senators after the 2010 election when they approved a two-year ban on federal earmarks. Shelby said it wouldn't save taxpayer money and would put spending authority in the hands of the Obama administration. Shelby soon began ignoring the moratorium.
Shelby was a popular, four-term Democratic congressman when he won election in 1986 to the U.S. Senate, helping the Democrats regain control of that body for the first time since 1980.
The day after the 1994 election, in which Republicans regained control of the Senate, Shelby announced he was switching parties. Republicans rewarded him with a seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee, a position he was previously denied by the Senate Democratic Caucus.
Shelby touched off a long-running public feud with President Bill Clinton's administration by blasting Clinton's budget proposal. Clinton tried to punish Shelby by moving some top-level space program jobs out of Alabama, but the attempt backfired and turned Shelby into the most popular politician in the state.
Shelby has been a powerful appropriator and frequently boasts of steering millions of dollars in spending to his home state, particularly to its universities. All three campuses of the University of Alabama and Auburn University's main campus have major buildings named after Shelby because he secured federal funding to build them.
Committee Assignments: Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Appropriations; Special Aging
American Conservative Union Rating: 90
Americans for Democratic Action Rating: 5
Richard Shelby is not up for re-election in 2014.
(Last updated by The Associated Press on June 12, 2014.)