JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Friends, family, fellow lawmakers, staff and lobbyists on Wednesday were shocked to receive the news that former State Representative Keith English has passed away.
“I’m deeply saddened by the news of the passing of my good friend Keith English,” Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer said in a statement. “My thoughts and prayers are certainly with his wife, Kelly and their family.”
“Please keep the family of former state representative Keith English in your prayers,” Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal posted on Twitter. “He was a great advocate with an infectious personality.”
Speaking on the House floor Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Kevin Engler described English as a passionate man who was proud to be an electrician.
“If you followed him on Facebook, you saw that he loved his grandchildren, his children, and his wife, Kelly,” Engler said. “It is reported that sadly that they believe it was suicide. And the reason I bring that up is that, do you remember Keith talking about that? And talking about his mom? I don’t know what caused this… there are troubles that people have in life…”
Jefferson City Police Captain Doug Shoemaker says they are investigating the death as an apparent suicide.
The former lawmaker was known as quite the character during his four years in office.
Born in St. Louis in November 1967, the politician, union electrician, and business owner graduated from Hazelwood Central in 1986 and attended Saint Louis University before graduating from the IBEW Joint Apprenticeship Training Center in 1989. Before running for the House, he served as a Florissant city councilman for over five years.
He first came to office after being elected from Florissant in November 2012, and quickly made waves in his short tenure, which all led up to the headlines when he broke from the Democratic caucus in 2014. English was the only Democrat that year to vote in favor of reducing Missouri’s state income tax, providing the pivotal vote to override the veto of then-Gov. Jay Nixon.
After that, he was removed from four House committees, and eventually left the party in early 2015, switching his party affiliation to that of an independent.
He often referred to himself as a moderate Democrat, joining Republicans on issues like abortion, repealing the St. Louis earning tax, and placing new limits on welfare.
English also received some recognition for his swift actions to rescue a fellow member of the House who was choking in the middle of a forum.
English was also an accomplished Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) trainer and enthusiast, taking up fighting professionals in 2008. He fought from 2008 to 2012, when he retired in the fall of that year with a record of 10-0. He often gave his winnings to charity.
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.