Former US Senator Kay Hagan died on Monday, Oct. 28 at the age of 66 – causing a lot of tears to be shed and an outpouring of affection from those locally and those across the nation who knew her, worked with her and were represented by her.
Due to her prominence on the national political scene during her time in the US Senate, her death is generating headlines at major news outlets across the country – an indication of the important role she played in the national debate on a wide range of issues. CNN, the Washington Post, Time and Politico are just some of the news outlets across the nation that all ran reports of her passing.
Hagan was born in Shelby, North Carolina and went on the become an attorney and banking executive. She served in the NC Senate, for ten years prior to being elected to the US Senate in 2008 and serving one term.
In North Carolina, and in Washington, Hagan was a proud moderate Democrat who worked hard to further goals such as protecting victims’ rights, promoting social justice and making affordable health care more ubiquitous. She was fond of quoting the State Toast which states that “the weak grow strong and the strong grow great” in North Carolina.
In December 2016, while she was in Washington, Hagan contracted encephalitis and was later diagnosed with “Powassan virus.” The illness impaired her motor skills and her speech and led to her death this week at too young an age.
Upon the news of her death Monday, people from across the political spectrum shared loving thoughts about Hagan.
Senator Thom Tillis tweeted that he and his wife were greatly pained by the news.
“Susan and I are absolutely heartbroken by Senator Kay Hagan’s sudden passing,” he wrote, “and extend our condolences and prayers to her loving family and many friends. We join all North Carolinians in remembering her dedicated and distinguished record of public service to our state and nation.”
Friends and others who knew Hagan said Monday that she was greatly humbled by the opportunity to serve the citizens of North Carolina and the country.
In a 2015 Facebook post, Hagan wrote: “Serving North Carolina in the US Senate has been among the greatest privileges of my life, and I will always value the trust that was placed in me by the People of North Carolina. Over the past six years, I have had the honor of representing our state – from Murphy to Manteo – and working hard in Washington to put North Carolina first.”
She also stated that during her years in the US Senate, she was honored to play a role in taking on some of the country’s biggest challenges such as addressing the major economic crisis that had just hit the nation when she took national office.
She noted a jobs bill, laws that helped bring closure and justice for victims of contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, and also the effort to expand healthcare as points of pride and accomplishment.
“These are all incredibly important issues, of which I am both proud and honored to have had the opportunity to take tough votes that, years from now, we will look back on as the defining issues of our era,” she wrote.
She concluded at that time: “Serving North Carolina for the past 16 years, as a North Carolina and US Senator, has been an incredible opportunity, and I can’t say ‘thank you’ enough to all North Carolinians, my colleagues in the Senate, my supporters and my family. It has truly been a blessing.”
On Monday, many of those who knew and loved her said that she was a blessing.