Jean Carnahan, the former Missouri First Lady and Democratic U.S. Senator who replaced her husband following his death, has died at 90, the AP reports.
A statement from Cranahan’s family said she passed away peacefully.
“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 according to the Daily Caller.
Carnahan replaced her husband, former Sen. Mel Carnahan (D-MO), in the Senate following his death in a plane crash in 2000 less than a month before his election against incumbent Sen. John Ashcroft (R-MO). Mel Carnahan was elected posthumously, leading to Jean Carnahan’s appointment until a special election could be held in 2002.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson extended his sympathy to the Carnahan family.
“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,” he wrote on X.
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.
— Governor Mike Parson (@GovParsonMO) January 31, 2024
“We know Jean’s legacy lives on with her family and with each and every Missourian whose life was touched by her time in public service,” Parson said in a follow-up post. “Rest in peace.”
Borning in Washington, D.C., Jean and Mel Carnahan were high school sweethearts and married while Jean attained her undergraduate degree at George Washington University. In 1956, the couple moved to Missouri where Mel opened a law practice. Nearly three decades later, Jean took an active role in her husband’s successful campaign for governor and later became an influential First Lady in his administration, advocating for increased child immunizations, childcare for working families, and the arts. She wrote a collection of books about Missouri’s history and donated the proceeds to the restoration of the Governor’s Mansion so it could be more widely opened to the public.
In the Senate, Jean Carnahan opened herself up to criticism following her husband’s death by voting against the confirmation of Ashcroft as U.S. Attorney General, saying her vote was an “act of conscience.” She sponsored legislation to provide benefits to airline workers laid off in the industry’s collapse following 9/11 and later backed the massive tax cut package pushed by former President George W. Bush. She narrowly lost her reelection to Republican Jim Talent in 2002.
Carnahan is survived by her son Russ, a former congressman and current chair of the Missouri Democratic Party, and her daughter Robin, a former Missouri secretary of state.