Mel Carnahan

Last updated
Mel Carnahan
51st Governor of Missouri
In office
January 11, 1993 October 16, 2000
LieutenantRoger B. Wilson
Preceded by John Ashcroft
Succeeded by Roger B. Wilson
43rd Lieutenant Governor of Missouri
In office
January 9, 1989 January 11, 1993
GovernorJohn Ashcroft
Preceded by Harriett Woods
Succeeded byRoger B. Wilson
40th State Treasurer of Missouri
In office
January 12, 1981 January 14, 1985
Governor Kit Bond
Preceded by Jim Spainhower
Succeeded by Wendell Bailey
Personal details
Melvin Eugene Carnahan

(1934-02-11)February 11, 1934
Birch Tree, Missouri, U.S.
DiedOctober 16, 2000(2000-10-16) (aged 66)
near Hillsboro, Missouri, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Jean Carpenter (m. 1954)
Relations Carnahan family
Children4, including Russ, Robin, and Tom
Father A. S. J. Carnahan
Education George Washington University (BA)
University of Missouri (JD)
Military service
AllegianceFlag of the United States.svg  United States
Branch/serviceFlag of the United States Air Force.svg  United States Air Force
Rank US-O2 insignia.svg First Lieutenant
Unit Air Force Office of Special Investigations

Melvin Eugene Carnahan (February 11, 1934 – October 16, 2000) was an American lawyer and politician who served as the 51st Governor of Missouri from 1993 until his death in a plane crash in 2000. A Democrat, he was elected posthumously to the U.S. Senate; his widow held his seat for two years.

Democratic Party (United States) Major political party in the United States

The Democratic Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with its rival, the Republican Party. Tracing its heritage back to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison's Democratic-Republican Party, the modern-day Democratic Party was founded around 1828 by supporters of Andrew Jackson, making it the world's oldest active political party.

United States Senate Upper house of the United States Congress

The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress, which along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—comprises the legislature of the United States. The Senate chamber is located in the north wing of the Capitol Building, in Washington, D.C.


Early life and education

Carnahan was born in Birch Tree, Missouri, and grew up on a small farm near Ellsinore, Missouri, with his only sibling, Robert "Bob" Carnahan. [1] [2] He was the son of Kathel (Schupp) and A. S. J. Carnahan, the superintendent of Ellsinore schools who, in 1944, was elected to the United States House of Representatives, serving from 1945-1947 and 1949-1961.

Birch Tree, Missouri City in Missouri, United States

Birch Tree is a city in Shannon County, Missouri, United States. The population was 679 at the 2010 census.

Ellsinore, Missouri City in Missouri, United States

Ellsinore, founded in 1888, is a town located in a long valley just off Highway 60 in the eastern end of Carter County, Missouri, USA. The 2010 U.S. Census shows Ellsinore with a population of 446, an increase of 22.87 percent from its 2000 population of 363.

A. S. J. Carnahan American politician

Albert Sidney Johnson Carnahan was an American diplomat and politician from Southeast Missouri. He began his career as a teacher and school administrator. He then served as a member of the United States House of Representatives for southeastern Missouri for 14 years, becoming the first member of the prominent Carnahan Family to serve in public office.

Carnahan moved with his family to Washington, D.C. in 1945 and returned in 1949, the year he met his future wife Jean. There he graduated from Anacostia High School in 1952 and earned a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Business Administration from George Washington University in 1954. [3] He married Jean Anne Carpenter that same year and also entered the United States Air Force during the Korean War and served as a special agent for the Office of Special Investigation rising to the rank of First Lieutenant. In 1956, he and his wife moved back to his home state of Missouri. He received a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Missouri School of Law in Columbia, Missouri, in 1959.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, the first president of the United States and a Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

A Bachelor of Arts is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, sciences, or both. Bachelor of Arts programs generally take three to four years depending on the country, institution, and specific specializations, majors, or minors. The word baccalaureus should not be confused with baccalaureatus, which refers to the one- to two-year postgraduate Bachelor of Arts with Honors degree in some countries.

George Washington University university in Washington, D.C.

The George Washington University is a private research university in Washington, D.C. It was chartered in 1821 by an act of the United States Congress.

Political career

Carnahan as state treasurer in 1981 Mel Carnahan.jpg
Carnahan as state treasurer in 1981

State Legislator

Carnahan's political career started in 1960 when he was elected to serve as a municipal judge in Rolla. Two years later he was elected as a member of the Missouri House of Representatives representing the Rolla area. [4] He remained in the Missouri house until 1966, winning the position of majority floor leader in his second term. In 1966, he lost an election for the state senate and started practicing law. [5]

Missouri House of Representatives lower house of U.S. state legislature

The Missouri House of Representatives is the lower chamber of the Missouri General Assembly. It has 163 members, representing districts with an average size of 37,000 residents. House members are elected for two-year terms during general elections held in even-numbered years.

Rolla, Missouri City in Missouri, United States

Rolla is a city in and the county seat of Phelps County, Missouri, United States. The population in the 2010 United States Census was 19,559. Rolla is located approximately midway between St. Louis and Springfield along I-44. The Rolla, Mo Micropolitan Statistical area consists of Phelps County, Missouri.

State Treasurer

In 1980, Carnahan was elected Missouri State Treasurer. He served in that post from 1981 to 1985. In 1984 he was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Missouri, losing the Democratic primary election to then-Lieutenant Governor Kenneth Rothman, who lost the general election that year to state Attorney General John Ashcroft. [6]

The State Treasurer of Missouri is a statewide elected official responsible for serving as Missouri's chief financial officer. The current state treasurer is Scott Fitzpatrick, who was appointed in January 2019 following the resignation of the previous incumbent Eric Schmitt in order to accept appointment as Attorney General of Missouri. Treasurers are limited to two terms in office. Along with the Governor, these are the only statewide elected offices in Missouri that are subject to term limits. Schmitt was elected as State Treasurer after Clint Zweifel was ineligible to seek reelection as state treasurer in the 2016 elections, and announced that he would not run for any other political office that year.

A primary election is the process by which voters, either the general public or members of a political party, can indicate their preference for a candidate in an upcoming general election or by-election, thus narrowing the field of candidates.

John Ashcroft 79th United States Attorney General

John David Ashcroft is an American lawyer and former politician who served as the 79th U.S. Attorney General (2001–2005), in the George W. Bush Administration. He later founded The Ashcroft Group, a Washington D.C. lobbying firm.

Governor of Missouri

In 1988 he was elected Lieutenant Governor of Missouri. In 1992, he faced Mayor of St. Louis Vincent C. Schoemehl in the Democratic primary for governor. He won the Democratic nomination by a wide margin and went on to easily defeat Republican state Attorney General William L. Webster in the general election. He was elected Governor of Missouri on November 3, 1992, and reelected for a second term on November 5, 1996, defeating Republican State Auditor of Missouri Margaret Kelly.

Mayor of St. Louis political position

The Mayor of the City of St. Louis is the chief executive officer of St. Louis' city government. The mayor has a duty to enforce city ordinances and the power to either approve or veto city ordinances passed by the board of aldermen.

Vincent C. Schoemehl, Jr. was the 42nd mayor of St. Louis, Missouri, serving three terms from 1981 to 1993. At the time of his first election, he was one of the City's youngest mayors. In 1992, Schoemehl was defeated in the Democratic primary by lieutenant governor Mel Carnahan in a bid to become governor of Missouri.

William L. Webster American politician and criminal

William Lawrence Webster is an American former politician, and convicted felon, from Missouri. He served in the Missouri House of Representatives and as the Attorney General of Missouri from 1985 to 1993. After failing to win election as governor in 1992, Webster pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement.

2000 Senate election and death

In 2000, Carnahan ran in the election against incumbent Republican John Ashcroft to become a United States Senator. It was a heated and intense campaign, in which Carnahan traveled all over Missouri to garner support in what was a very close race. However, early in the evening of October 16, the night before a presidential debate held at Washington University in St. Louis just three weeks before the election, the twin-engine Cessna airplane he was flying on, which was piloted by his son Randy, lost control in rainy and foggy conditions and crashed on a forested hillside near Goldman, Missouri, only about 35 miles (56 km) south of St. Louis. All three on board the plane (Mel and Randy Carnahan and Chris Sifford, the governor's campaign advisor and former chief of staff) were killed in the crash. [2]

Lieutenant Governor Roger B. Wilson ascended to the governorship and served out the balance of Carnahan's term, which ended in January 2001. Because Missouri election law would not allow Carnahan's name to be removed from the November 7, 2000, ballot, the campaign chose Carnahan's widow, Jean Carnahan, to unofficially become the new Democratic candidate. Wilson promised to appoint her to the seat, if it became vacant as a result of Mel Carnahan's win in the election. Carnahan's campaign continued using the slogan "I'm Still with Mel." A Senate first, Carnahan posthumously won, by a 2% margin. Jean Carnahan was then appointed to the Senate and served until November 2002, when she was defeated by a 1% margin in a special election by Republican James Talent.

Awards and recognitions

A high school, Carnahan High School of the Future, was named after him in 2003.

Personal life

Carnahan and his family were active members of the First Baptist Church of Rolla, where he served as an ordained deacon and member of the building committee. In 1984, he risked his political career by taking a public stand against Missouri ballot issues, Amendments 5 and 7, which would legalize parimutuel betting and create a state lottery. He was one of only a handful of state elected officials to take such a position; however, both amendments passed.

Carnahan married Jean Carpenter in Washington, D.C. on June 12, 1954. They had four children, all lawyers. Russ Carnahan, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Missouri's 3rd District (2005–2013); Tom Carnahan, founder of Wind Capital Group, which builds wind farms; Robin Carnahan, former Missouri Secretary of State (2005–2013); and Roger "Randy" Carnahan, who piloted the plane and perished in the same crash that killed his father.

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  1. Elsinore Remembers its Fallen Son p. 17.
  2. 1 2 Belluck, Pam (2000-10-18). "Mel Carnahan, 66, Missouri Governor and Democratic Senate Candidate". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2019-01-20.
  3. "Mo. Gov. Killed in Plane Crash". Washington Post.
  4. "Governor Mel Eugene Carnahan" . Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  5. Belluck, Pam (18 October 2000). "Mel Carnahan, 66, Missouri Governor and Democratic Senate Candidate". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  6. Missouri State Treasurer-Past Treasurer's Biography Archived 2012-05-21 at the Wayback Machine
Political offices
Preceded by
Jim Spainhower
Treasurer of Missouri
Succeeded by
Wendell Bailey
Preceded by
Harriett Woods
Lieutenant Governor of Missouri
Succeeded by
Roger B. Wilson
Preceded by
John Ashcroft
Governor of Missouri
Party political offices
Preceded by
Betty Cooper Hearnes
Democratic nominee for Governor of Missouri
1992, 1996
Succeeded by
Bob Holden
Preceded by
Alan Wheat
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Missouri
(Class 1)

Succeeded by
Jean Carnahan
Preceded by
Evan Bayh
Chair of the Democratic Governors Association
Succeeded by
Gaston Caperton