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First woman to represent Missouri in the US Senate Jean Carnahan dies at 90

By Piper Hudspeth Blackburn, CNN

(CNN) — The first woman to represent Missouri in the Senate, Jean Carnahan, died Tuesday after a brief illness, according to a statement from her family. She was 90.

“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,” the statement said.

Carnahan was appointed to the Senate seat that her husband Mel Carnahan, a two-term Democratic governor of Missouri, won posthumously in 2000.

Then-acting Gov. Roger Wilson tapped Jean Carnahan to fill the seat after her husband died in a plane crash that also claimed the lives of their son, Roger, and a long-time aide. Wilson had promised to appoint Carnahan to serve in her husband’s place for the first two years of the term if Missouri voters elected the late governor.

The former Missouri first lady was sworn in on January 3, 2001. In an interview with CNN after the ceremony, the Democrat described the moment as “bittersweet” and “historic,” vowing to get things done, “one step at a time.”

“I am taking Harry Truman’s seat in the Senate, and I am the first woman to represent Missouri in the United States Senate,” she said. “So I think this is going to be a particularly meaningful time for me, and it can be a meaningful time for the state of Missouri.”

She served in the Senate for nearly two years, holding a post on the Armed Services Committee. In 2002, she narrowly lost an election to finish out the rest of her term.

Carnahan was born in 1933 to working-class parents in Washington, DC, the family’s statement said. She grew up in Anacostia, and went on to graduate from George Washington University in 1955. She met her future husband, the son of then-Missouri Rep. A.S.J. Carnahan, when she was a teenager. They married in 1954 and raised four children.

CNN’s Brian Rokus contributed to this report.

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