Senator Church graduated from Stanford University, interrupted with a tour of Burma in World War II. While practicing law in Boise, he ran for the Senate in 1956 and defeated Republican incumbent Herman Welker. He was then elected to three more terms before his defeat by Representative Steven Symms in 1980. He gained fame during his service in the Senate by the so-called Church committees, which investigated unconstitutional CIA and FBI intelligence-gathering. He tried to attain the Democratic nomination in 1976, but ceded to Jimmy Carter, who was elected.