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Baptist governor killed in Missouri plane crash

ST. LOUIS (BP)–Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan and two others, including his son, were killed in a plane crash just near St. Louis Oct. 17. All three men were members of Southern Baptist churches.

The governor’s office issued a statement confirming that Carnahan had been killed when the plane went down in rainy and foggy weather.

Carnahan was a member of the First Baptist Church, Rolla, Mo., where he served as a deacon and Sunday school teacher.

“We will miss him dearly,” said the statement that also declared that Lt. Gov. Roger Wilson was officially appointed acting governor.

“Gov. Carnahan always believed that public service was a noble calling,” the statement said.

Carnahan, 66, along with his son, Roger, who was known as Randy, and campaign adviser Chris Sifford, had been flying Monday evening in rain and fog to a fund-raiser for his U.S. Senate race. Carnahan was looking to unseat Republican Sen. John Ashcroft in a bitter campaign.

“I hope everyone in Missouri will put the Carnahan family and the Sifford family in their prayers,” Wilson, 51, said.

Ashcroft’s campaign immediately suspended all campaign advertising “out of respect for Governor Carnahan and his family,” Ashcroft campaign manager David Ayres said.

James Merritt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, extended condolences to the governor’s family and the family of Sifford on behalf of all Southern Baptists.

“No one can hardly imagine the devastation and grief the families are experiencing,” Merritt said. “I call on all Southern Baptists to pray for the families of those who lost their lives.”

Though he did not know the governor personally, Merritt called him a “very fine man and a popular governor.”

“I know that people everywhere, regardless of political affiliation, feel a great loss,” Merritt said.

Jim Hill, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, told Baptist Press that Missouri Baptists had lost a good friend.

“Missouri has lost several wonderful servant leaders in this tragic accident,” Hill said. “Our hearts go out to their families and we are praying that God’s grace will sustain.”

Jim Chilton, director of missions for the Phelps Baptist Association, described Carnahan as “a personable individual. Even the people who disagreed with his politics liked him personally.”

Chilton said Carnahan had occasionally volunteered for the association and was active in his local congregation.

A member at First Baptist since 1959, Carnahan served as a Sunday school teacher, church training director and choir member.

He was a former member of the Missouri Baptist Convention executive board, a former trustee at Southwest Baptist University and a former trustee of the Southern Baptist Foundation.

His son, Randy, was also an active member of First Baptist Church, Rolla.

Sifford was a member of Memorial Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Mo.

Hill said that Carnahan was involved in a number of activities in cooperation with the Missouri convention including the Future Generations Campaign, a joint endowment campaign for six Missouri Baptist institutions.

Carnahan and his wife, Jean, also hosted the executive board and their spouses in the governor’s mansion.

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees affirmed an expression of sympathy to Carnahan’s family voiced by the Missouri trustees of the board. Introduced by trustee Kent Cochran of Kansas City, the resolution stated, “Missouri trustees of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary express their deep sympathy to the family of Governor Mel Carnahan. Missouri Baptists have lost a dedicated public servant and fellow Southern Baptist churchman. We call upon all Christians across our state and nation to uphold this family in prayer at a time of great loss.” Joining Cochran in offering the motion were Missouri trustees Loretta Bringer of Maywood, Robert Collins of Blue Springs, Gary Manford of Jefferson City, John Marshall of Springfield, Ralph Sawyer of Wentzville and Jay Scribner of Branson.

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  • Todd Starnes