Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan died Monday night in a plane crash near Hillsboro, Mo., 25 miles southwest of St. Louis. Carnahan graduated from GW in 1954 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in business communications, said Robert Moll, director of communications at the School of Business and Public Management.
The governor’s wife, Jean Carnahan, was a GW graduate in the Class of 1955, Moll said.
“We share the grief of the people of Missouri,” said Jeremy Gosbee, director of Alumni Communications. “We wish the family the best.”
Carnahan, a Democrat, was in a close senate race with Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.) at the time of his death. The governor was traveling to New Madrid, Mo., to attend a get-out-the-vote conference at the time of the crash, USA Today reported. The airplane was piloted by Carnahan’s son, Roger “Randy” Carnahan, and his senior campaign advisor, Chris Sifford, was also on board, according to The Washington Post. All three passengers died.
Officials said the plane departed from St. Louis Parks Airport at 6:55 p.m. Central Standard Time and the plane dropped from radar at about 7:33 p.m. The first 911 call was received at 7:36 p.m. from a citizen, officials said, according to USA Today.
Eyewitnesses said the plane went down in a fireball after an explosion. The weather was “very rainy” at the time of the crash, USA Today reported. Roger Carnahan had flown his father to many campaign events before, and it was reported that both men were very cautious about the weather.
An investigation of the crash is expected take nine months to a year to complete, according to The Post, because of the state of the wreckage, which is scattered over hundreds of yards in steep ravines.
After graduating from GW, Carnahan went on to receive a law degree from the University of Missouri in 1959. Before becoming governor, Carnahan served as treasurer of Missouri from 1981 to 1985 and then served as lieutenant governor of Missouri from 1988 to 1992, according to The Post.
In 1992 Carnahan was elected governor of Missouri. He was re-elected in 1996 with 57 percent of the vote, The Post reported.
“The Governor was particularly devoted to education issues,” Gosbee said.
In 1995, a letter written by Carnahan was read to SBPM graduates at the business school’s commencement ceremony.
“Education issues are very important to me, both personally and in my role as governor for my state of Missouri,” Carnahan wrote in the letter. “Because of your commitment to and achievement of your degree from George Washington University, I know that education is also a strong force for each of you.”
Carnahan reiterated his dedication to education in an interview with GW Magazine this year. Carnahan was featured in the publication’s Winter 2000 issue. In the article Carnahan said he was “very much in favor” of tax credits to assist people in paying college tuition.
Carnahan spent two years in the Air Force after attending GW, but failed the physical examination to become an Air Force pilot. He earned a pilot’s license and saw flying as a break from his political life, USA Today reported.
In his letter addressed to the graduating students of SBPM in 1995, Carnhan left the message: “Life is a great teacher of many things, and I urge you to seek out unique and varied experiences in life, which ultimately will prove to be the most enriching and educational experiences for you.”