MEL CARNAHAN was born in Birch Tree and grew up in Rolla, Missouri. He received a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1954 from the George Washington University. He joined the U.S. Air Force after graduation and served during the Korean War. He received a law degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1959. He entered public service at the age of 26 when he was elected to serve as a municipal judge in Rolla. Two years later he was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives, where he remained until 1966, winning the position of majority floor leader in his second term. He was twice awarded the St. Louis Globe-Democrat Meritorious Service Award and twice was recognized by his colleagues for outstanding public service. He held various other positions, among them president of the local school Board, a Kiwanis Club officer, and chair of the local Red Cross chapter, the United Fund, the ABLE Commission, which helps the elderly. He also served on the board of Boys' Town of Missouri. He was elected state treasurer in 1980 and lieutenant governor in 1988. Four years later he was elected Governor by a decisive margin. He served as chair of both the Democratic Governors' Association and the Southern Governors' Association and president of the Council of State Governments. He also served as a member of the National Governors Association Executive Committee. Governor Carnahan died in a plane crash on October 16, 2000, as he was campaigning for the U.S. Senate.