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Clinton Hails Fallen Gov. Carnahan

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October 21, 2000 


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missourians remembered Mel Carnahan, the governor who died while seeking the Senate seat once held by Harry Truman, with emotional ceremonies that drew mourners by the thousands.

President Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton were among the mourners who marched solemnly in a procession around the Missouri Capitol.

"He was a leader in the very best way,'' said Clinton, who entered the White House in the same 1992 election when Carnahan won the governor's office. "Yes, he was a leader like Harry Truman. He spoke the plain truth.''

"I loved the guy, and anybody who thinks he was dull never looked him straight in the eye, because he had steel and passion and fire, and I think he rather enjoyed being underestimated by the people who disagreed with him,'' Clinton told the crowd.

Carnahan died in a plane crash Monday night along with his oldest son, Roger Carnahan, and longtime campaign aide Chris Sifford. The three were headed to a campaign event when the aircraft went down in rain and fog near St. Louis shortly after takeoff.

Father and son will be buried Saturday in the family plot in Ellsinore in southeast Missouri; services and burial for Sifford will be Sunday.

Carnahan's daughter, Robin, recalled her father's admonition on cold winter mornings about keeping wood on the fire. "Dad, I promise we won't let the fire go out,'' she said, her voice wavering slightly.

Before the service, a riderless black horse with its boots backward in the stirrups, symbol of a fallen warrior, joined the processional from the Governor's Mansion to the Capitol grounds.

Carnahan's widow, Jean, linked hands with Robin, sons Russ and Tom, daughter-in-law Debra and grandsons Austin and Andrew.

Behind the family were the Clintons, Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, and new Gov. Roger Wilson and his wife, Pat.

The procession halted at 11:11 a.m. on the south side of the Capitol. As the St. Louis Symphony String Quartet played "Danny Boy.''

As the service ended and the casket was returned by caisson to the Governor's Mansion, the Jefferson City First Baptist Church children's choir sang "Jesus Loves Me.'' Many in the audience cried.

There were full military honors for Carnahan, an Air Force veteran and Missouri's commander in chief, including the National Guard's rumbling cannon salute, the playing of "Taps'' and a lone bagpiper's wail of "Amazing Grace.''

Four F-15s flew in a "V'' formation over the Capitol, then one peeled away, representing the missing man.

Carnahan had been battling Republican Sen. John Ashcroft in one of the nation's tightest Senate races. Carnahan's name will stay on the Nov. 7 ballot because the deadline to change it has passed. If Carnahan receives the most votes, Wilson can appoint a replacement to serve until the next general election, in November 2002.

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