OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
Missouri’s former Democratic Senator Jean Carnahan passed away this week at the age of 90.
“Carnahan, who became the first female senator to represent Missouri when she was appointed to replace her husband following his death, died Tuesday. She was 90. Carnahan, a Democrat, was appointed to the Senate in 2001 after the posthumous election of her husband, Gov. Mel Carnahan, and she served until 2002,” the Associated Press reported.
“Mom passed peacefully after a long and rich life. She was a fearless trailblazer. She was brilliant, creative, compassionate, and dedicated to her family and her fellow Missourians,” a statement from her family said.
“Teresa and I are saddened to hear of the passing of Jean Carnahan. A former U.S. Senator and Missouri First Lady, Jean Carnahan will be remembered for her deep, abundant love for the people of this great state. We know Jean’s legacy lives on with her family and with every Missourian whose life was touched by her time in public service. Rest in peace,” Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parsons wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Following her husband’s election to the governorship in 1992 and during both of his terms, Carnahan held the position of first lady of Missouri.
In a plane crash on October 16, 2000, the governor, the couple’s son Roger, and an aide perished. Three weeks after her husband’s passing, acting governor Roger Wilson appointed Jean Carnahan to fill the vacant seat. Mel Carnahan had been elected posthumously.
*Former U.S. Senator from Missouri and former First Lady of Missouri, Jean Carnahan, has died today (1-30-24) at age 90.
*She was the first woman to represent Missouri in the U.S. Senate. pic.twitter.com/DrSo2Dt1W4
— Scanner News STL (@ScannerNewsSTL) January 31, 2024
Her tenure was from January 3, 2001, to November 25, 2002. Following her appointment, Carnahan addressed the Senate, highlighting her unfortunate journey to the body.
“My name has never been on a ballot. On election night, there was no victory celebration,” she said. “You are here because of your win. I am here because of my loss. But we are all here to do the work of this great nation.”
Longtime Carnahan aide and chief of staff Roy Temple told Jean Carnahan, “Jean, you are like a flower that blooms wherever you are planted,” when he saw her at her 90th birthday celebration the previous year.
“She just did everything with a boundless amount of smarts, wit, and creativity,” Temple said. “Whatever she was doing — if it was planning a party or it was pushing for legislation, it was just in her nature to do it all the way.”
Despite Carnahan’s brief two-year tenure in the Senate, Temple noted that she served during a unique period. She was grieving the deaths of her husband and son while she was there, and she had lost her home in a fire.
She was present on September 11, 2001, and during the anthrax scare, she worked in the Hart Senate Office Building. Temple recalls collaborating with her during that period in a secret location in the Capitol basement.
“It was an extraordinary and stressful time, and she did the job well and with great dignity,” Temple said. “It was a privilege to work with her.”
Temple claimed that Carnahan and then-Sen. Joe Biden bonded because Biden was one of the few individuals who had experienced a comparable loss and could relate to her situation.
Seven books were written by Carnahan, including two about the governor’s mansion in Missouri and an autobiography that highlighted her time as a senator and first lady.
At Carson Hill Cemetery, which is close to Ellsinore, Missouri, where Carnahan’s husband and son are interred, a private family service will be held. Details about a planned public service in St. Louis are anticipated to be released later.