Political Science Professor, U.S. Senator : 1944 – 2002
Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash with his wife Sheila and daughter Marcia while campaigning for his third term as U.S. Senator from Minnesota. One of the most progressive voices in the Senate, he was for affordable health care, strict environment protection, campaign finance reform, raising the minimum wage, arms control, veterans’ benefits, gay rights, and protecting Social Security and Medicare from privatization. He was opposed to extravagant expenditures on weapons. He voted against the Iraq War resolution shortly before his death.
Wellstone was born July 21, 1944, the son of immigrant Russian Jews. He grew up in Virginia and went on a scholarship to the University of North Carolina where he was a champion wrestler and earned a B.A. and Ph. D. in political science. In 1970 he began teaching at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, while continuing as a political activist. He protested the Vietnam War, mobilized welfare mothers, organized for nuclear disarmament, and was arrested sitting in at a bank that had foreclosed on local farmers. In 1990 Wellstone ran a liberal, populist campaign for Senator, winning against an incumbent.
Wellstone said, “Politics is not about power. Politics is not about money. Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people’s lives.”