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Hubert Horatio Humphrey, Jr. (1911 - 1978 )

U.S. Vice-President

Born in Wallace, South Dakota, on May 27, 1911, Humphrey grew up in Doland, South Dakota., where his father ran a drugstore. He dropped out of the University of Minnesota because of the Depression but later (1933) received a degree from the Denver College of Pharmacy. In 1936 he married Muriel Buck. Returning to the University of Minnesota, he graduated magna cum laude with a major in political science in 1939. In 1940 he received a master's degree from Louisiana State University. He also taught at both institutions and at Macalester College. In 1941 he joined the Work Projects Administration in Minnesota.

In 1943, Humphrey ran for mayor of Minneapolis and narrowly lost. He then helped unite the Minnesota Democratic and Farmer-Labor parties, and after their merger in 1944 he became a state party leader. In 1945 he was elected mayor by more than 30,000 votes. While mayor, he secured passage of the nation's first municipal fair employment practices ordinance. He helped wrest control of the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor party from Communist influences and was a cofounder (1947) of the Americans for Democratic Action, a national liberal, anti-Communist organization. In 1947 he was reelected by a record 50,000-vote plurality.

A delegate to the 1948 Democratic national convention, Humphrey was instrumental, through his evangelical oratory, in having the convention override the platform committee and include President TRUMAN's civil rights proposals in the platform. Humphrey's convention triumph preceded his election to the U.S. SENATE that year and gave him a reputation as a fire-breathing Midwestern liberal.

His Senate record reinforced his liberal reputation. His first legislative proposal was for medical care for the aged (a medicare bill was eventually enacted, in 1965, after Humphrey had become vice president). Although initially he earned the antipathy of his colleagues because of his brashness, he sought the tutelage of another new senator, Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, and by the end of his first term he had gained the respect of Senate elders. He was reelected in 1954 and 1960. He became assistant majority leader in 1961 and helped win Senate approval of the nuclear test ban treaty of 1963 and of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Although disappointed in his bid for the vice presidential nomination in 1956 and for the presidential nomination in 1960, Humphrey had enhanced his national stature. After Vice President Johnson became president in 1963, Humphrey was the most likely 1964 vice presidential nominee. At the national convention President Johnson appealed for Humphrey's nomination, and the convention chose him by acclamation.

Vice President Humphrey served as chairman of several official bodies, including the National Aeronautics and Space Council. He was a prominent spokesman for the administration's legislative program and helped dramatize the administration's efforts to secure civil rights for minorities and to reduce poverty.

Johnson sent Humphrey on many foreign missions, including trips to several Asian nations to explain U.S. positions on the war in Vietnam. At home Humphrey staunchly defended administration policies in Vietnam, and thereby alienated many of his former liberal supporters. He attempted to dissuade "peace" candidate Sen. Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota from challenging Johnson's renomination in 1968.

After a strong showing by McCarthy in the New Hampshire primary, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy of New York also challenged Johnson. Then, to almost universal astonishment, Johnson announced that he would not run again. Anticipating urban, liberal, labor, university, and business support in all regions, Humphrey announced his candidacy. When Kennedy lost the Oregon PRIMARY to McCarthy, Humphrey's nomination was virtually won. A week later Kennedy defeated McCarthy in California, only to die from an assassin's bullet.

Humphrey held his delegates through a stormy Democratic convention that included a fight over the Vietnam plank in the platform. McCarthy's supporters complained that Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago and other convention officials had managed the proceedings--which had been nearly overshadowed by antiwar protests in the streets--to suit the interests of the Johnson administration and Humphrey's candidacy. Humphrey and his vice-presidential candidate, Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie, set out to restore party unity. Ex-Alabama Gov. George Wallace, a third-party candidate, threatened to cut into the Democratic vote in Northern industrial areas. The country was in a mood for change. Humphrey lost by 1% of the popular vote to Republican Richard NIXON. Humphrey carried 13 states, mostly in the East, and the District of Columbia, for 191 electoral votes. Nixon won 301 ELECTORAL votes, and Wallace 46.

In 1969-1970, Humphrey taught again at Macalaster, before being reelected to the Senate in 1970. He unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972, and decided not to challenge the front-runner, Jimmy CARTER, for the nomination in 1976. He underwent an operation for cancer late in 1976, but was reelected to the Senate. In 1977 he was elected deputy president pro tem of the Senate, a new position created for him.

Humphrey's cancer proved to be terminal, but he exhibited unusual fortitude and good cheer as he faced the end. He died at his home in Waverly, Minn., on Jan. 13, 1978. His widow was appointed to fill out his Senate term.

A leading champion of civil rights and other liberal causes, Humphrey made his national reputation as a U.S. senator, serving from 1949 to 1964 and from 1971 until his death. Despite his sometimes controversial stands, especially his support of the Johnson administration's Vietnam policy, and a hearty personality that bothered some with its exuberance, Humphrey became in his later years one of the most respected and beloved figures in American political life.

An indication of that respect and love was bestowed on Humphrey after his death, when he was given a funeral worthy of a head of state. His body lay in the Capitol rotunda in Washington, and his last rites in Minneapolis were attended by the nation's leaders. President Jimmy CARTER eulogized Humphrey by saying: "From time to time, our nation is blessed by the presence of men and women who bear the mark of greatness, who help us see a better vision of what we can become. Hubert Humphrey was such a man."