CHILLICOTHE — Mildred Litton, mother of the late Jerry Litton, a popular Democratic congressman from northwest Missouri, died Thursday morning after a long illness. She was 98.
Lindley Funeral Home in Chillicothe said Mrs. Litton died just after 2 a.m. on Christmas morning. Mrs. Litton was the mother of Jerry Litton, who was killed Aug. 3, 1976, in a plane crash along with his wife and their two children as they headed to a victory celebration after he won the Democratic senatorial primary. Two others also died in that crash.
Mildred Litton was heavily involved in agricultural education, awarding thousands of dollars in scholarships each year to local FFA members. She also was involved in a number of other causes.
Jerry Litton and his father, Charley Litton, formed the Litton Charolais Ranch in Chillicothe, where they used a computer evaluation system to breed award-winning beef cattle. They sold the ranch for $3.4 million soon after Litton was elected to Congress in 1972.
Litton was re-elected in 1974 with the highest vote total in the history of the northwest Missouri district. He grew even more popular with his "Dialogue with Litton" political talk show, which aired on TV and radio stations in Missouri, Illinois and Kansas.
Litton's chief of staff at the time, Ed Turner, now a Chillicothe real estate agent, said Litton was so popular that his congressional office received about 100 requests a week for speaking engagements.
Jerry Litton was considered the underdog in the 1976 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, but won the 10-way primary with a margin of almost 170,000 votes over the runner-up, former Gov. Warren Hearnes.
The twin-engine Beechcraft plane carrying the Litton family got barely 100 feet off the ground when the crankshaft broken in the left engine and the plane plunged into a soybean field and burst into flames. Everyone aboard was killed.
Afterward, Charley and Mildred Litton carried on their son's legacy through various philanthropic ventures, including funding of an agricultural center that bears Jerry Litton's name and renovation of the high school football stadium where he once played.
Charley Litton died in 1980.
Mildred Litton's funeral service will be held Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. at United Methodist Church in Chillicothe, with burial at Resthaven Memorial Gardens. Visitation at Lindley Funeral Home is scheduled from noon to 9 p.m. Monday, with family visitation from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.