Monday, October 3, 2011

Senior DeMolay Highlight - Mel Carnahan

I took a break for the popular Senior DeMolay Highlight series last week, but today I'm back with another entry. We've talked about actors, entertainers, athletes, and explorers, as well as an international political figure. However, we haven't discussed any of the famous members of our government here in the United States. Today, I bring you the a tragic tale of a Senior DeMolay who's life was cut short before he could really show the impact that our Order had on his career. Today, we discuss

Melvin Eugene Carnahan
Former Governor of Missouri

Bro. Mel Carnahan was born in the small town of Birch Tree, Missouri, in 1934. His father was a state Representative, which would later impact his decision to become involved in politics. He had one brother, Robert, and was said to be a very loving son. While hailing from Missouri, Carnahan spent most of his adolescent life living in the District of Columbia while his father served his term of office. It was during this time that Carnahan became a member of Anacostia Chapter, a part of Nation's Capital DeMolay, but you can surely know that his Missouri roots prompted him to join.

He attended George Washington University, leaving the school with a business degree, after which he joined the United States Air Force. He attained the grade of 1st Lieutenant and spent most of his career in the Office of Special Investigation. Upon discharge, he attended the University of Missouri School of Law and earned a Juris Doctorate from that institution. In 1954, Mel married Jean Carpenter, and fathered four children with her - Russ, Tom, Robin, and Randy.

Politically, Carnahan was a popular democrat, who started out his career in the Missouri House of Representatives. In 1980, he was elected State Treasurer. Mel ran for Governor of Missouri in 1984, but lost the Democratic primary. Had he won, he would have faced another important political figure - former Attorney General John Ashcroft (who served as Governor of Missouri for 8 years.)

In one of the countries different political systems, the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri is elected separately from the Governor (they don't run as a slate, as is done in PA.) Carnahan was able to get elected Lieutenant Governor in 1988. This poised him to run for Governor again in 1992, in an election he would soundly win, becoming the 51st Governor of Missouri. He went on to serve as second term.

In 2000, Bro. Carnahan decided to run for United States Senator against his old political rival, John Ashcroft. The campaign was intense, with Carnahan criss-crossing Missouri on a daily basis, trying to ensure his election. In doing so, his son Randy would fly his father to each campaign stop in a small Cessna airplane. On Oct. 16, 2000, just three weeks before the election, his plane crashed into a forested area, killing Mel, his son Randy, and his campaign advisor, Chris Sifford.

Due to odd election laws in Missouri, Carnahan's name could not be removed from the ballot. For the last three weeks of the election season, his wife, Jean, continued to campaign for him using the slogan "I'm still with Mel!" In an unprecedented event, the deceased Carnahan won the election by a two percent margin, catapulting the race to national attention. With the seat being technically vacant, the Governor of Missouri appointed Jean Carnahan to fill the seat her dead husband would have held.

Of his DeMolay career, Mel said “I have many fond memories of my time as a DeMolay member. Along with my home and my church, DeMolay was one of the major influences on my life during those early formative years. One of the most important lessons I learned from DeMolay was the need for respect—respect for your parents, respect for women, respect for your family and friends, and respect for your community. I also appreciated the many wonderful friendships I was able to make within my chapter. DeMolay provides young men with the tools they need to assume leadership roles and accept the many civic and personal responsibilities that lie ahead of them. Most important of all, DeMolay builds strong character and instills the values that will continue to make this country a great one. I want to thank DeMolay for the difference its organization has made in my life, and I am confident that its principles will continue to inspire young men to realize their potential. ”

Bro. Carnahan was a Chevalier, a Legionnaire, and was inducted into the DeMolay Hall of Fame in 1999 - just months prior to his untimely death.

Bro. and "Dad" Carnahan showed that his Mission was to control public policy and help those who lived in the State of Missouri. What can you learn from how Mel completed his Mission?

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

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