AKA George Stanley McGovern
Birthplace: Avon, SD
Location of death: Sioux Falls, SD
Cause of death: unspecified
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Party Affiliation: Democratic
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: US Senator from South Dakota, 1963-81
Military service: US Army Air Corps (WWII, 1942-45)
George McGovern was the Democratic Party's candidate for President in 1972, and lost to incumbent President Richard M. Nixon in one of the most lopsided landslides in American political history.
His father was a preacher, and McGovern attended public schools, then left college to join the Army Air Corps for World War II. He flew 35 combat missions over North Africa and Italy, and won the Distinguished Flying Cross for piloting his damaged bomber across Yugoslavia to a remote island runway that was far shorter than the minimum length to safely land. McGovern had his crew throw all their non-essential equipment overboard, then both pilots stood on the brake as the plane touched down.
After the war, he came home and resumed his college education. He had been raised in a Republican family, but first registered to vote as an Independent, then worked alongside Paul Robeson as an activist for the Progressive Party, arguing against America's peacetime draft, and opposing British and American domination of the Middle East. Like most third parties in America, the Progressive Party went nowhere, and McGovern became a Democrat after hearing a fiery speech by Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson.
McGovern taught history and government at Dakota Wesleyan University for several years, then ran for Congress in 1956, where he served two terms. In 1960 he left the House to run for the US Senate, losing to the Republican incumbent, Karl Mundt, but McGovern kept his campaign workers together and ran for South Dakota's other Senate seat two years later, defeating Republican Joe Bottum by a narrow margin. He voted for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution authorizing what became the Vietnam War, but McGovern soon came to believe that the cost of the war, both monetarily and in body bags, could not be justified by the "domino theory" that America needed to hold the line against advancing communism. He became one of the first prominent politicians to speak out against that war, and famously said on the Senate floor, "I'm tired of old men dreaming up wars for young men to fight".
He ran for President in 1972, and was given little chance of securing his party's nomination. Republicans, though, saw McGovern as the weakest -- and thus the preferred -- Democratic opponent, so the Nixon campaign targeted frontrunner Sen Ed Muskie with dirty tricks, including a smear campaign against Muskie's wife that led to Muskie breaking down in tears on camera. Muskie's support faltered, and McGovern became the Democratic nominee, running on a promise to end the war, bring home the troops and prisoners held by the Vietnamese, and offering amnesty for draft evaders who had fled the country. When he chose Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton as his Vice Presidential candidate, questions began surfacing about Eagleton's past, and McGovern told reporters he stood behind Eagleton "1,000 percent". Within days it was revealed that Eagleton had once suffered depression, and he was replaced on the ticket by Sargent Shriver.
After losing the Presidential election, McGovern remained in the Senate until losing a re-election bid in 1980. He owned a book store for many years, hosted Saturday Night Live in 1984, and worked as a United Nations Global Ambassador on World Hunger for several years. He was an outspoken critic of the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, and remained an icon for liberal causes until his death in 2012.
Father: Joseph C. McGovern (minister)
Mother: Frances McLean
Wife: Eleanor Fay Stegeberg (m. 31-Oct-1943, d. 25-Jan-2007, four daughters, one son)
Daughter: Teresa (d. 1994 exposure)
High School: Mitchell High School, Mitchell, SD (1940)
University: BA, Dakota Wesleyan University (1946, cum laude)
University: MA, Northwestern University (1949)
University: PhD, Northwestern University (1953)
Professor: History and Political Science, Dakota Wesleyan University (1950-53)
Professor: History, University of New Orleans (1981-82)
US Ambassador to the UN Food and Agricultural Agencies, Rome (1998-2001)
US Senator, South Dakota (1963-81)
US Congressman, South Dakota 1st (1957-61)
Common Good Advisory Board
Council of American Ambassadors
George McGovern for President, 1972
Middle East Policy Council President (1991-97)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Presidential Medal of Freedom 9-Aug-2000
World Food Prize 2008 (with Bob Dole)
French Legion of Honor
Funeral: Richard Nixon (1994)
Funeral: Hunter S. Thompson (2005)
Funeral: William F. Buckley (2008)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (20-Jan-2008) · Himself
The U.S. vs John Lennon (31-Aug-2006) · Himself
One Bright Shining Moment (16-Sep-2005) · Himself
The Candidate (29-Jun-1972) · Himself
Author of books:
War Against Want: America's Food for Peace Program (1964)
Agricultural Thought in the Twentieth Century (1966)
The Great Coalfield War (1972, with Leonard F. Guttridge)
Grassroots: The Autobiography of George McGovern (1977, memoir)
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