Paul David Wellstone (July 21, 1944 – October 25, 2002) was a two-term U.S. Senator from the state of Minnesota and member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, which is affiliated with the national Democratic Party. Before being elected to the Senate in 1990, he was a professor of political science at Carleton College. Wellstone was a progressive and a leading spokesman for the progressive wing of the national Democratic Party. He served in the Senate from 1991 until his death in a plane crash on 25 October 2002, 11 days before the US senate election in which he was running for a third term. His wife, Sheila, and daughter, Marcia, also died in the crash. They had two other grown children, David and Mark, who now co-chair the Wellstone Action nonprofit group.
Wellstone was born in Washington D.C. to Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants, Leon and Minnie Wellstone, and raised in Arlington, Virginia. Originally, his family name was Wexelstein, but his father changed the name to Wellstone in the 1930s when he encountered virulent anti-semitism. He attended Yorktown High School in Arlington. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) on a wrestling scholarship, graduating with a degree in political science in three years and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He was an undefeated Atlantic Coast Conference champion in wrestling.
Wellstone married in 1963. In 1965 he earned his B.A. in Political Science; William Keech and Joel Schwartz served as his thesis advisers. Four years later he was awarded a Ph.D. in Political Science. Wellstone's 1969 doctoral dissertation at UNC was "Black Militants in the Ghetto: Why They Believe in Violence." Upon earning his Ph.D., Wellstone accepted a job as a Professor of Political Science at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, where he taught until his election to the Senate in 1990.