The mayor of Springfield, Ill., was found dead in his home early in the morning on Dec. 14 according to CNN. Tim Davlin was 53 and was to have delivered an accounting of his cousin’s estate on the day his body was found. Davlin had other financial woes as the IRS filed liens up to $90,000 for back taxes owed. The State Journal-Register reports Davlin’s cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound even though authorities would not list an official cause of death.
Davlin’s death is a tragic reminder that politicians are regular people too and can face untimely deaths while in office. The same is true for Missourians such as myself who suffered the death of their governor in 2000.
Mel Carnahan came from a political family. His father was a Congressman and John F. Kennedy appointed Albert Carnahan ambassador to Sierra Leone. This idealism rubbed off onto Mel when he became Missouri’s governor in 1993.
When Carnahan’s second term as governor was about to be up in 2001, he challenged Missouri’s incumbent Sen. John Ashcroft in the 2000 election. On his way to a campaign stop in New Madrid, Mo., three weeks before the election a private plane carrying the governor and his son went off the radar screen.
All three people died in the plane crash including Mel Carnahan, his son Roger and campaign staffer Chris Sifford south of St. Louis in Jefferson County. Oct. 16, 2000, was a date that changed everything for Missourians.
Ashcroft ceased his campaign for 10 days out of respect. Despite having died in a plane crash, Missouri law did not allow for the ballot to be altered a month before the election. Carnahan’s name stayed and he got elected under these special circumstances. His widow Jean was appointed to the seat by Missouri’s governor Roger Wilson who succeeded Carnahan after his death and served as Lieutenant Governor.
For me, losing Mel Carnahan was like a stab to the heart. Seeing Jean Carnahan, Missouri’s first female Senator, was a relief but her two years in office were far too short. She only was in office until another election could be held two years later.
Carnahan’s death for my generation of Missourians was just like the Kennedy assassination for the U.S. in 1963. I remember the morning I found out about Carnahan’s death and watching his funeral on live television. Dignitaries from all over the U.S. gathered in Jefferson City for his state funeral and President Bill Clinton delivered the eulogy. I couldn’t help but cry upon thinking how Carnahan’s legacy was cut too short.
Davlin’s Service to Community
Davlin’s death is equally as tragic. Residents of Springfield and the state of Illinois need to realize two things. First is that it’s OK to feel sad. Even if you didn’t know the mayor personally it should still resonate with residents who care about the city. Second is life goes on just like any other death. After the memorials and tributes there will be remembrances every so often about how Davlin served his city.
It does get easier the further removed from this moment of mourning for Springfield. For now, it’s okay to pause and reflect upon how Davlin’s presence will be missed in local government as a public servant.
Smith, Matt, “Illinois police probe Springfield mayor’s death,” CNN.
The State Journal-Regsiter, “Police provide no details on Davlin’s death.”
U.S. Congress, “Women in Congress-Jean Carnahan, Senator from Missouri.”