Raised in the town of Hybart in Monroe County, Alabama, Sessions graduated from Huntingdon College in Montgomery and the University of Alabama School of Law. In the 1970s he worked in private practice and rose to the rank of captain in the U.S. Army Reserve. From 1981 to 1993 he served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. President Ronald Reagan nominated him to a judgeship on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama in 1986, but the Senate confirmation failed after it was alleged that he had made racist remarks to a colleague. Sessions was elected to Attorney General of Alabama in 1994. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996 and easily re-elected in 2002 and 2008. He and his colleague Richard Shelby are the state's first two-term Republican Senators since Reconstruction.
Sessions was ranked by National Journal in 2007 as the fifth-most conservative U.S. Senator, siding strongly with the Republican Party on political issues. He supported the major legislative efforts of the George W. Bush administration, including the 2001 and 2003 tax cut packages, the Iraq War, and a proposed national amendment to ban same-sex marriage. However, he was one of 25 senators to oppose the establishment of TARP. He has opposed the Democratic leadership since 2007 on most major legislation, including the stimulus bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act. Formerly the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he opposed both of Obama's nominees for the Supreme Court.