Kay Hagan: Former Senator Dies ‘Unexpectedly’ at Age 66

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (

Kay Hagan, former U.S. Senator from North Carolina died Monday, October 28. She was 66.

Hagan had been diagnosed with Powassan virus, a type of encephalitis, in 2016. Encephalitis is the inflammation of the brain from a tick-born virus. Hagan was in Washington when she fell ill and was first diagnosed. She was hospitalized at an Atlanta rehabilitation hospital for about six months before beginning outpatient treatment.

She is survived by her husband, Chip Hagan, and her children, Tilden, Jeanette, and Carrie.

Her family said in a statement,

“We are heartbroken to share that Kay left us unexpectedly this morning. Kay meant everything to us, and we were honored to share her with the people of North Carolina whom she cared for and fought for so passionately as an elected official. Most of all, we already miss her humor and spirit as the hub of our family, a role she loved more than anything. Nobody could light up a room and make people feel welcome like Kay. We are deeply grateful for the support shared with our family as Kay worked to regain her strength these last few years after her illness and we appreciate your continued prayers.”

The Democratic Senator served a single term after beating Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole in 2008. She lost to Republican Thom Tillis in 2014. Prior to that she served as a campaign manager for Governor Jim Hunt’s campaign. She also spent 10 years serving in the North Carolina Senate. After serving in the U.S. Senate, Hagan worked as a consultant for a lobbying firm in D.C.


Hagan Retreated From Politics After Her Diagnosis

Before Hagan got sick, she was a resident fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics. After her diagnosis, however, Hagan largely moved away from public life.

In June, while wheelchair bound, she made a rare media appearance to attend the airport ceremony celebrating a new 180-foot-tall air traffic control tower at Piedmont Triad International. Her husband told Greensboro.com later that “Kay’s ability to speak is limited, but her comprehension is very good,” Hagan said. She can speak, he said, but it’s slow and labored.”

Airport Executive Director Kevin Baker, who gave his groundbreaking spade and hard hat to Hagan after the ceremony, remembered that day fondly. He said, “She climbed up into the tower, and she learned firsthand what its limitations are. She then made it her charge to help get our project out of the doldrums and moving along. I’m not sure if there could be anything more appropriate than for her to be part of that.”


D.C. Dignitaries & Politicians Such as John Kerry & Amy Klobuchar Shared Their Condolences on Twitter

Condolences poured in on Twitter upon the news of her death, including from Presidential hopeful Amy Klobuchar. She tweeted, “We lost my good friend Kay Hagan today. She was one bright yellow ray of sunshine for everyone she touched—the Senate, her beloved state of NC, her friends. As she struggled the last few years, Chip & their kids were always at her side. Look up at the sun & think of Kay today.”

NBC News political reporter Jonathan Allan tweeted a photo of Hagan holding his child. He wrote, “Shortly after the birth of our son, Sen. Kay Hagan dropped by our house to check on my wife — who worked for her then — and meet the baby. No fanfare, no staff, just a few minutes of quiet celebration of our new joy. We’re saddened to hear of her passing.”

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