In 2023, prominent politicians worldwide concluded their impactful careers, facing diverse endings, from health-related issues to abrupt tragedies. This tribute honors a varied group, including former governors, seasoned legislators, and groundbreaking trailblazers. Spanning continents—Americas, Europe, Africa, and Australia—the list comprises heads of state, cabinet members, and local officials who left indelible marks. Despite ideological disparities, each leader positively influenced public service, making notable contributions.
As we look back on the eventful year of 2023, we pay respects to these departed politicians and others, highlighting their careers and legacies in various levels of government across multiple nations. While their passing is mourned by many, their significant contributions will continue to be remembered long after their time.
Julian Morton Carroll was born April 16, 1931, was a notable American lawyer and Democrat from Kentucky, serving as the 54th Governor from 1974 to 1979. Originating from the far-western Jackson Purchase region, he became the region’s first governor. Carroll prioritized education funding advocated coal use during the 1973 energy crisis, and oversaw the reorganization of Kentucky’s judicial system. His tenure faced challenges, including the Great Blizzard of 1978 and the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire.
Post-governorship, Carroll remained active, serving in the Kentucky Senate from 2004 until his passing. He faced controversies, including allegations of impropriety in 2017. Despite an investigation into an alleged insurance kickback scheme during his time as governor, Carroll continued contributing to Kentucky’s political landscape. He passed away on December 10, 2023, in Frankfort, Kentucky, at the age of 92.
Howard Wayne (November 2, 1948 – November 2, 2023) was a prominent American politician, serving as the Vice Chair, Central Area of the San Diego County Democratic Party. His political career spanned the California State Assembly from 1996 to 2002, representing the 78th State Assembly district. Wayne, a San Diego State University graduate, earned his juris doctor degree from the University of San Diego School of Law. Prior to politics, he dedicated 23 years as a Deputy Attorney General, specializing in consumer protection and child support.
Wayne overcame initial setbacks, winning the Assembly seat in 1996 after two unsuccessful attempts in 1990. His subsequent electoral victories in 1998 and 2000 solidified his position. Post-Assembly, Wayne briefly ran for San Diego City Attorney in 2003 and later served as an Assistant Attorney General. He engaged in community service, including a move to South Africa in 2006 to contribute to the country’s legal system.
On his 75th birthday, November 2, 2023, Howard Wayne passed away, marking the end of a dedicated and influential political career.
Douglas Allen Larsen (March 8, 1976 – October 1, 2023) dedicated his life to both business and public service as a member of the North Dakota Senate for the 34th district from 2020 until his tragic end in 2023. With a Bachelor’s degree from Minot State University, Larsen served for 29 years in the North Dakota Army National Guard, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel and commanding the 112th Aviation Battalion during deployments to Iraq (2009–10) and Washington, D.C. (2013–14).
Beyond his military service, Larsen owned Apex Builders and a Wingate by Wyndham hotel franchise in Bismarck, North Dakota, showcasing his commitment to entrepreneurship. Elected to the North Dakota Senate in 2020, he represented District 34, which includes Mandan.
The devastating plane crash on October 1, 2023, claimed Larsen’s life, along with his wife and two children. The incident occurred during a flight from Scottsdale, Arizona, to their North Dakota home, shortly after refueling at Canyonlands Regional Airport in Grand County, Utah, near Moab. Doug Larsen was 47 years old at the time of his untimely death.
Dianne Emiel Feinstein, born on June 22, 1933, was a trailblazing American politician whose impactful career spanned several decades until her passing on September 29, 2023, at the age of 90. A member of the Democratic Party, Feinstein served as the United States senator from California from 1992 until her death. Prior to her Senate tenure, she held the position of mayor of San Francisco from 1978 to 1988, becoming the first woman to occupy this role. Feinstein’s achievements included leading the renovation of San Francisco’s cable car system and overseeing the 1984 Democratic National Convention.
Feinstein’s political influence extended to the national stage; she authored the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee from 2009 to 2015, and became the first woman to preside over a U.S. presidential inauguration. Despite concerns about her health and mental acuity during her final years in office, Feinstein remained an influential figure until her death. She decided not to seek reelection in 2024, announcing her retirement in February 2023. In September 2023, Feinstein passed away of natural causes at her home in Washington, D.C., marking the end of an era for one of the most prominent and enduring figures in American politics.
Miklós Hanó (6 February 1957 – 3 September 2023) was a Hungarian politician, serving in the National Assembly from Békés County Regional List from 2010 to 2014 and earlier between 1998 and 2002. Born in Békéscsaba, Hungary, he graduated from the Vocational Secondary School of Food Industry in Szeged and worked in various managerial roles in the food industry. Hanó joined the Independent Smallholders, Agrarian Workers and Civic Party (FKGP) in 1993 and later co-founded the Hungarian Smallholders and Civic Party (MKPP) in 2001.
A member of the Fidesz party since 2009, Hanó served as Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture. In 2010, he returned to the National Assembly as a member of the Committee on Agriculture. He passed away on 3 September 2023, at the age of 66. The cause of his death remains undisclosed, and there is no mention of any illness. Hanó was married, had two children, and had served as a deputy mayor of Békéscsaba from 2006 until his death.
James Lane Buckley, born on March 9, 1923, was a distinguished American politician and judge, serving as the United States senator from New York from 1971 to 1977. A member of the Conservative Party of New York State in the Republican caucus, Buckley had a multifaceted political career, including a nomination as the Republican candidate in the 1980 Connecticut Senate race. In 1970, he won the U.S. Senate seat with 39% of the vote, representing the Conservative Party.
Buckley’s political journey also included roles in the Reagan administration, where he served as Undersecretary of State for International Security Affairs and later as President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Notably, he became one of the few individuals in modern times to have served in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the federal government. After his political career, Buckley reached centenarian status, turning 100 on March 9, 2023. Unfortunately, he passed away on August 18, 2023, at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., due to injuries sustained in a fall, marking the end of a remarkable life in American politics.
Roy Herron, born on September 30, 1953, in Weakley County, Tennessee, USA, was an American politician, attorney, and author. He served as the Chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party and held the position of Tennessee State Senator for the 24th district for 16 years. Prior to that, he was the State Representative for the 76th district. Herron, an Eagle Scout raised on his family’s farm, graduated with honors from the University of Tennessee at Martin and later from Vanderbilt University with a joint M.Div. and J.D.
Herron’s political career was marked by his dedication to the working class, strong advocacy, and leadership roles in various committees. He was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Representative for Tennessee’s 8th congressional district in 2010 but faced defeat. As the Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman, he achieved success despite challenges. Tragically, Roy Herron passed away on July 9, 2023, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, at the age of 69, following injuries sustained in a jet ski accident on Kentucky Lake on July 1, 2023.
Carson William Beck
Carson William Beck, born on March 21, 1962, was an American lawyer and Democratic Party politician, serving as a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives from 2015 until his passing in 2023. Representing District 51, which covered parts of Davidson County including Old Hickory, Madison, Inglewood, East Nashville, Downtown, The Gulch, Germantown, and Salemtown, Beck was known for his contributions to the legal and political arenas.
Beck graduated from Belmont University with a degree in Business Administration in 1985, followed by obtaining his Doctor of Jurisprudence from the Nashville School of Law in 1989. As a personal injury attorney in Nashville, he ventured into politics, winning the Democratic primary in 2014 and securing subsequent victories in the general elections.
Despite facing legal challenges in 2015, with DUI charges later dismissed, Beck continued his political career until his unexpected death from a heart attack on June 4, 2023, at the age of 61. He is survived by his wife Pamela and their daughter.
Dean Russel Corren
Dean Russel Corren, born on May 16, 1955, was an American politician and scientist, known for his tenure in the Vermont House of Representatives from 1993 to 2000. Initially an independent and later a member of the Progressive Coalition, he also made an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor of Vermont in 2014. Corren, the third member of the Progressive Party elected to the state legislature, played a significant role in local politics and house elections.
Born in New York City, Corren was raised in Katonah, New York, later moving to Burlington, Vermont. He graduated from Middlebury College and New York University, holding a master’s degree in energy science. Corren, a Democrat, served on the Electric Commission in Burlington, facing some political opposition within his party.
His political career saw success as an independent and Progressive Coalition member in the Vermont House of Representatives. Corren passed away from a cardiac event on May 3, 2023.
Nigel Lawson, Baron Lawson of Blaby, a prominent British politician and journalist, born March 11, 1932, was a key figure in the Conservative Party. Serving as the Member of Parliament for Blaby from 1974 to 1992, Lawson held crucial positions in Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet, notably as Chancellor of the Exchequer. His policies, including tax reforms and industry privatization, defined the “Lawson Boom,” marked by economic growth but marred by controversies leading to his 1989 resignation.
Beyond politics, Lawson, father of six, including food writer Nigella Lawson, remained active in advocating for Brexit. His later years were spent in political commentary. Nigel Lawson passed away at 91 on April 3, 2023, at his Eastbourne home, succumbing to bronchopneumonia. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak praised Lawson as an “inspiration,” and Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer hailed him as a “real powerhouse,” marking the end of a significant era in British politics.
Christina Fay Miller AM (8 April 1947 – 1 April 2023) was an Australian politician, representing the Country Liberal Party in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly from 2003 to 2008 for the electoral division of Katherine. Born in South Australia, Miller moved to Katherine in 1989 and became known for her community service. Before entering politics, she worked in clerical positions and managed the Red Gum Tourist Park with her husband. Elected in a by-election following Mike Reed’s resignation, Miller later became the deputy leader of the CLP and served on the front bench.
A car accident in 2006 resulted in severe injuries, contributing to her retirement in 2008. In 2012, she was elected as the mayor of Katherine. Recognized for her contributions, Miller was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2021 Australia Day Honours. Tragically, she passed away from primary myelofibrosis on 1 April 2023, at the age of 75.
Joachim Zeller was a German politician born in Opole, Poland, on 1 July 1952. He served as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from 2009 to 2019 for the Christian Democratic Union, affiliated with the European People’s Party. Zeller studied at Humboldt University of Berlin and worked at the university library until 1992. Later, from 1996 to 2006, he served as the mayor of the Berlin borough of Mitte.
In the European Parliament, Zeller was a member of the Committee on Regional Development (2009–2014) and the Committee on Budgetary Control (2014–2019). He participated in election monitoring missions, including the Ukrainian parliamentary elections in 2012 and 2014, and the 2019 Moldovan parliamentary election.
In April 2018, Zeller announced his decision not to stand in the 2019 European elections, opting to resign from active politics at the end of the parliamentary term. He faced controversy for his role in the Azerbaijani presidential election observation mission in 2013. Joachim Zeller passed away in March 2023 at the age of 70. The cause of his death is not specified.
Eunice Dwumfour (1993 – 2023) was a trailblazing Republican councilwoman in Sayreville, New Jersey, serving from 2021 until her tragic assassination. As the first African American in this role, she also worked as a business analyst and part-time emergency medical technician. Born in East Orange, New Jersey, Dwumfour graduated from Weequahic High School in 2010 and earned a bachelor’s degree from William Paterson University in 2017. A devoted Christian leader, she served as a pastor and director in religious organizations.
Dwumfour, a single mother and recent bride to Pastor Peter Ezechukwu, met a violent end on February 1, 2023. While sitting in her SUV outside her Sayreville townhouse, she was brutally shot 14 times, and her vehicle rolled downhill, crashing into other cars. The shocking incident marked the first known shooting death of an elected official in recent New Jersey history. The investigation, initially stalled, led to the arrest of Rashid Ali Bynum, a former resident of Sayreville and member of a religious organization associated with Dwumfour’s church. Bynum was charged with murder based on evidence, including security camera footage and cellphone records, indicating his presence at the crime scene.
James George Abourezk, born on February 24, 1931, was an American attorney and politician known for his significant contributions to South Dakota. A member of the Democratic Party, he served one term each in the United States Senate and House of Representatives, becoming the first Arab American senator. Abourezk was instrumental in the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978, aimed at preserving Native American families and culture.
Abourezk, the first Greek Orthodox Christian of Lebanese-Antiochite descent in the U.S. Senate, was critical of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, particularly regarding Palestine and Israel. After leaving politics, he served as legal counsel for the Islamic Republic of Iran in Washington, D.C., and founded the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in 1980.
James Abourezk passed away at home in Sioux Falls on his 92nd birthday, February 24, 2023. His funeral took place on May 28, 2023, at the Washington Pavilion in downtown Sioux Falls. His legacy includes advocating for Native American rights and tribal sovereignty, leaving a lasting impact on South Dakota and American politics.
Francis L. Bodine
Francis L. “Fran” Bodine (January 10, 1936 – January 11, 2023) was an American Republican turned Democrat, serving in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1994 to 2008, representing the 8th Legislative District. Initially a Republican, Bodine switched parties in 2007 after losing Republican support for his Assembly reelection bid and later ran unsuccessfully for the New Jersey Senate. Noteworthy roles included Deputy Leader and Assistant Majority Whip during his Assembly tenure.
Bodine, a Moorestown native, served on various committees, sponsored key legislation, and held positions such as Mayor of Moorestown and Commissioner of the Delaware River Port Authority. He died at the age of 87 in Surf City, New Jersey, one day after his birthday on January 11, 2023.
This global collection of politicians represented diverse backgrounds but shared a common legacy of courageous public service. Their lives prematurely ended in 2023 after endeavoring to create positive change, from empowering constituents to breaking barriers. They advanced progress on issues they deemed critical despite imperfections. While mourned by many, their enduring contributions live on through policies, broken barriers, or constituents uplifted over lengthy, admirable tenures. Their varied stories inspire future leaders to take stands locally and globally, reminding us political impact emerges from all backgrounds when driven by service and conviction.