Chuck Graham, former state senator, dies at 55
MISSOURI - Former Missouri state senator Chuck Graham died Tuesday, his former Senate Chief of Staff Ted Farnen said.
Graham, a Democrat, was elected to the state Senate in 2004 after serving in the Missouri House of Representatives. He served Columbia as both an elected official, advocating on behalf of MU and of embryonic stem cell research, and as a citizen, chairing the city's Disabilities Commission.
Graham died of a heart attack at age 55, his wife Kate Graham confirmed in a Facebook post.
Graham was a longtime advocate for people with disabilities. He began using a wheelchair in high school following a car accident, and went on to become a member of the University of Illinois wheelchair basketball team, Farnen said.
As a legislator, he was instrumental in starting the wheelchair basketball team at MU and regularly attended games.
"He was very proud of that accomplishment," Farnen said.
Both Gov. Mike Parson and Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, expressed sadness on Twitter regarding Graham's death.
“I am very sorry to hear of the passing of Chuck Graham,” Rowden tweeted. “Chuck served our community in a number of meaningful ways while always staying focused on protecting our community’s most vulnerable citizens.”
Parson called Graham a "great man," and said he and his wife will be keeping his family in their prayers.
"Senator Chuck Graham was a tremendous advocate for research, science, and knowledge even at a time when those ideas were under siege. Especially now, as the need for research and science is needed more than ever, Chuck's advocacy will be greatly missed. His legacy will be his work on behalf of those with disabilities and chronic health challenges that are now living better lives," the Missouri Democratic Party stated in a news release.
Former chair of the Missouri Democratic Party Stephen Webber remembers knocking on doors with Graham as a high schooler during his first state house race in the late 1990s.
"He was always so welcoming, to include that high school kids who's interested in politics," Webber said.
While Webber and Graham did not work together very much during their times in the legislature, Webber said he was very impressed with Graham's passion and desire to improve life for people with disabilities.
" I remember he used to say he was tired of looking at the dais in front of the Senate gallery and just seeing stairs," Webber said. "To him that represented the physical embodiment of not being able to empower those he cared about. He wanted to have a ramp up to the Senate dais."
Funeral arrangements are currently pending.