One of the most progressive politicians, Paul Wellstone, died in a plane crash 20 years ago.
Paul Wellstone was an American politician, author, and academic who served as the United States Senator from Minnesota from 1991 until he died in 2002.
He was a member of the Democratic Party (DFL) and led the populist and progressive wings of the Party.
Paul Wellstone Murder Or Accident: He Was Killed In A Plane Crash
Paul Wellstone died in an airplane crash in northeastern Minnesota at 10:22 am on October 25, 2002. Some blame the weather, some the incompetence of the pilots, and some theorize it was a murder; nevertheless, it was an accident in the official records.
Paul, who was 58, was not the only one. There were seven more victims, including Paul’s wife, Sheila; one of his three children, Marcia; the two pilots: Richard Conry and Michael Guess; and Campaign staffers: Mary McEvoy, Will McLaughlin, and Tom Lapic.
The plane was on the way to Eveleth. The Beechcraft King Air A100 aircraft crashed into a thick forest about two miles from the Eveleth airport.
Paul was to attend the funeral of Martin Rukavina, a steelworker whose son Tom served in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) initially sent agents to help recover debris and investigate possible foul play in the crash. They followed several criminal leads involving death threats, which he had received since he took office.
The autopsy toxicology test also showed no signs of drug or alcohol use on both pilots. Hence, they finalized that the crash was accidental.
However, it was later speculated that the pilots might have been at fault. The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) stated that the possible cause of the accident was the flight crew’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed.
Paul Wellstone Legacy Lives On
The whole world was shaken by the sudden death of one of the prominent leaders of the United States. Many tributes and honors followed and still do to this day.
Following Paul’s death, the AFL–CIO created the AFL–CIO Senator Paul Wellstone Award, which is meant for the supporters of labor unions’ rights. Presidential candidate Howard Dean and California state senator John Burton were the first award recipients in January 2003.
In 2004, Paul’s alma mater, the University of North Carolina, dedicated the Paul and Sheila Wellstone Memorial Garden as a tribute to the deceased couple. Also in 2004, Mason Jennings, an American folk singer-songwriter, released a song called The Ballad of Paul and Sheila on his album Use Your Voice, memorializing the Wellstone couple.
Near the plane crash site, a memorial to the Wellstones was dedicated on September 25, 2005. Many high-profile politicians and hundreds of supporters and loved ones were present.
In their traditional Jewish custom, Paul and Sheila Wellstone were buried at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.
Paul Wellstone Family Details
Paul is survived by his two children, David and Mark Wellstone. His daughter, Marcia, was 33 when she died with her parents in the plane crash.
The senator met his wife, Sheila Ison Wellstone, at UNC (University of North Carolina) and married her during his first year at the University.
Paul David Wellstone was born in Washington, D.C., on July 21, 1944. His parents, Leon and Minnie Wellstone are Ukrainian Jewish immigrants.
Leon changed the family name from Wexelstein to Wellstone after facing antisemitism during the 1930s.
Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Arlington, Virginia, Paul attended Wakefield public schools and Yorktown High School, graduating in 1962. Paul went to UNC and did a Bachelor of Arts in political science, graduating in 1965. Moreover, Paul obtained a Ph.D. in political science from UNC in May 1969.
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