Christopher James Callahan (November 2, 1940 - April 1988) was an American Democratic politician from Kentucky, serving as a U.S. Senator from 1978, when he won a special election to fill the seat of Harland D. Sanders, until his death in 1988 when he was shot and killed during a victory celebration at the conclusion of the Pennsylvania primaries for the Democratic nomination. A "New Democrat," Callahan mixed economic progressivism with a "social moderation" viewed as more appropriate for the 1980s, thus striding a middle ground behind paleosegregationists in the South and Northeast liberals. His death helped galvanize the New Democrat movement and is credited for leading to centrist Democrats such as John Burwin, Jay Leno, John Tanner and Jim Carrey see success in landing every subsequent Democratic nomination for President. Prior to the Senate, Callahan served as the U.S. Representative for Kentucky's 2nd district, based largely in the Louisville area.

Early Life

Callahan was born to James Richard Callahan (1914-1986) and Loretta Mason (1920-2012) in Corbin, Kentucky, where they were the only Roman Catholics in the town. His parents were both very poor and he nearly dropped out of high school to help provide for him and his four younger siblings.

Because his parents could not afford college, Callahan enrolled in the Naval Academy in the fall of 1959 and served in the U.S. Navy for a full five year deployment after graduating in 1963, in which time he saw action in the 1967 US intervention in Bengal aboard the USS St. Louis. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in the spring of 1968 and he returned to Kentucky to take the bar exam, which he passed, having studied law on the side during his service.

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