James Paul David Bunning was born in Southgate, Kentucky, but attended St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati. He also graduated from Xavier University before playing minor league baseball. He was called up to the Detroit Tigers in July, 1955. He pitched a no-hitter in 1958 against the Boston Red Sox. After the 1963 season, Bunning was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He pitched a perfect game against the New York Mets in 1964, the first by a National League pitcher in 84 years. He would later play for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers before returning to the Phillies, retiring from baseball after the 1971 season.
Bunning served as a city councilman in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, and then ran successfully for State Senator as a Republican. In 1983, he ran for governor, but lost to Democrat Martha Layne Collins. In 1986, he won a seat in the U.S. House of Representative, in which he served for six terms. In 1998, he successfully ran for U.S. Senator, and was re-elected in 2004. He declined to run again in 2010, supporting his eventual successor Rand Paul.
Bunning died in a hospital in the same town where he was born. He is survived by his wife, the former Mary Catherine Theis, and their nine children, 35 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren.