George Stanley McGovern (July 19, 1922 – October 21, 2012) was an American historian and South Dakota politician who was a U.S. representative and three-term U.S. senator, and the Democratic Party presidential nominee in the 1972 presidential election.
George McGovern, in full George Stanley McGovern, (born July 19, 1922, Avon, South Dakota, U.S.—died October 21, 2012, Sioux Falls, South Dakota), American politician who was an unsuccessful reformist Democratic candidate for the U.S. presidency in 1972. He campaigned on a platform advocating an immediate end to the Vietnam War and for a ...
George McGovern, one of the leading liberals in U.S. politics, was born in a Republican household in a small South Dakota town. His family had some struggles during the Great Depression, but they were able to make ends meet. The young, idealistic man joined the Air Force during World War II and became a bomber pilot.
- Early Life
- Military Service and Education
- Early Political Career
- Opposing Involvement in Vietnam
- The 1972 Campaign
- Later Career
George Stanley McGovern was born in Avon, South Dakota, on July 19, 1922. His father was a Methodist minister, and the family adhered to the typical small-town values of the time: hard work, self-discipline, and avoidance of alcohol, dancing, smoking, and other popular diversions. As a boy McGovern was a good student and received a scholarship to attend Dakota Wesleyan University. With America's entry into World War II, McGovern enlisted and became a pilot.
McGovern saw combat service in Europe, flying a B-24 heavy bomber. He was decorated for valor, though he did not revel in his military experiences, considering it simply his duty as an American. Following the war, he resumed his college studies, focusing on history as well as his deep interest in religious matters. He went on to study American history at Northwestern University, eventually receiving a Ph.D. His dissertation studied the coal strikes in Colorado and the "Ludlow Massacre" of 1914. During his years at Northwestern, McGovern became politically active and began to see the Democratic Partyas a vehicle to achieve social change. In 1953, McGovern became the executive secretary of the South Dakota Democratic Party. He began an energetic process of rebuilding the organization, traveling extensively throughout the state.
In 1956, McGovern ran for office himself. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and was re-elected two years later. On Capitol Hill he supported a generally liberal agenda and established some important friendships, including with Senator John F. Kennedyand his younger brother, Robert F. Kennedy. McGovern ran for a U.S. Senateseat in 1960 and lost. His political career seemed to have reached an early end, but he was tapped by the new Kennedy administration for a job as director of the Food for Peace Program. The program, which was very much in keeping with McGovern's personal beliefs, sought to combat famine and food shortages around the world. After running the Food For Peace Program for two years, McGovern ran for the Senate again in 1962. He won a narrow victory, and took his seat in January 1963.
As the United States increased its involvement in Southeast Asia, McGovern expressed skepticism. He felt the conflict in Vietnamwas essentially a civil war in which the United States should not be directly involved, and he believed the South Vietnamese government, which American forces were supporting, was hopelessly corrupt. McGovern openly expressed his views on Vietnam in late 1963. In January 1965, McGovern drew attentionby delivering a speech on the Senate floor in which he said he did not believe the Americans could reach a military victory in Vietnam. He called for a political settlement with North Vietnam. McGovern's position was controversial, especially as it put him in opposition to a president of his own party, Lyndon Johnson. His opposition to the war, however, was not unique, as several other Democratic senators were expressing misgivings about American policy. As opposition to the war increased, McGovern's stance made him popular to a number of Americans, especially y...
By late 1971, the Democratic challengers to Richard Nixon in the upcoming election seemed to be Hubert Humphrey, Maine senator Edmund Muskie, and McGovern. Early on, political reporters did not give McGovern much of a chance, but he showed surprising strength in the early primaries. In the first contest of 1972, the New Hampshire primary, McGovern finished a strong second to Muskie. He then went on to win the primaries in Wisconsin and Massachusetts, states where his strong support among college students boosted his campaign. McGovern secured enough delegates to assure himself the Democratic nomination on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention, held in Miami Beach, Florida, in July 1972. However, when insurgent forces which had helped McGovern took control of the agenda, the convention quickly turned into a disorganized affair which put a deeply divided Democratic Party on full display. In a legendary example of how not to run a political convention, McGovern's accep...
Following the 1972 debacle, McGovern returned to his seat in the Senate. He continued to be an eloquent and unapologetic advocate for liberal positions. For decades, leaders in the Democratic Party argued over the 1972 campaign and election. It became standard among Democrats to distance oneself from the McGovern campaign (though a generation of Democrats, including Gary Hart, and Bill and Hillary Clinton, had worked on the campaign). McGovern served in the senate until 1980, when he lost a bid for reelection. He remained active in retirement, writing and speaking out on issues he believed important. In 1994 McGovern and his wife endured a tragedy when their adult daughter, Terry, who suffered from alcoholism, froze to death in her car. To cope with his grief, McGovern wrote a book, Terry: My Daughter's Life and Death Struggle With Alcoholism. He then became an advocate, speaking out on alcohol and drug addiction. President Bill Clinton appointed McGovern as the U.S. ambassador to t..."George Stanley McGovern." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 10, Gale, 2004, pp. 412-414. Gale Virtual Reference Library.Kenworthy, E.W. "U.S.-Hanoi Accord Urged By Senator." New York Times, 16 January 1965. p. A 3.Rosenbaum, David E. "George McGovern Dies at 90, a Liberal Trounced But Never Silence." New York Times, 21 October 2012. p. A 1.
The George McGovern presidential campaign of 1972 began when United States Senator George McGovern from South Dakota launched his second candidacy for the Presidency of the United States in an ultimately unsuccessful bid to win the 1972 presidential election, winning only in the District of Columbia and the state of Massachusetts.
Oct 21, 2012 · George Stanley McGovern was born on July 19, 1922, in a parsonage in Avon, S.D., a town of about 600 people where his father, Joseph, was the pastor of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. A ...
Feb 29, 2016 · A specter is haunting the Democratic Party—“McGovernism.” In 1972, President Richard Nixon shellacked his Democratic opponent, George McGovern, by a 23-point margin in the popular vote.
Senator George McGovern (1922-2012) during his 1972 presidential campaign. Well known for his lengthy political career, McGovern is less well known for the combat missions he flew over Europe during World War II. Photo courtesy of Dakota Wesleyan University Archives
Jun 24, 1996 · Terry: My Daughter's Life-and-Death Struggle With Alcoholism. By George McGovern. Villard, 224 pages, $21. In 1993, Teresa Jane McGovern had an idea for a book. She wrote of it in her journal ...
Jul 30, 2015 · An academic with a forthcoming biography of 1972 Democratic presidential candidate and former senator George McGovern has confirmed that the South Dakotan fathered a child before he was married ...