Biography for Hubert H. Humphrey
As a U.S. senator, vice president of the United States, and unsuccessful Democratic candidate for president, Hubert H. Humphrey established a reputation as a leader during the civil rights struggle and war on poverty. Born on May 27, 1911 in Wallace, South Dakota, Hubert Horatio Humphrey earned a pharmacy degree from Denver College in 1933. After helping his father for several years in the family drugstore in Doland, Humphrey enrolled in the University of Minnesota, majored in political science, and graduated in 1939. In 1940, he earned his master's degree at Louisiana State University. After working in the Works Progress Administration and as a teacher at Louisiana State University and the University of Minnesota, Humphrey narrowly lost the election for mayor of Minneapolis in 1943. He helped to unite the Democratic and Farmer-Labor parties in Minnesota, and his second bid for mayor in 1945 was successful. He also cofounded with Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Americans for Democratic Action, an anticommunist, liberal political organization. At the Democratic National Convention in 1948, Humphrey succeeded in winning the endorsement of President Harry Truman's civil rights proposals. Elected to the U.S. Senate later that year, Humphrey established a close relationship with Lyndon B. Johnson, another new senator who had also been a teacher. A successful political career for both men hinged on a willingness to engage in hard bargaining and compromise. Later, when Johnson became Senate majority leader, he explained their successful working relationship: "[Senator Humphrey] is not like other liberals. He wants to get the job done." Humphrey's habit of always looking on the bright side and talking long after his audience had begun to lose interest earned the comment from Johnson: "He is the greatest coordinator of mind and tongue in the world, being able to prepare a speech in the time it takes to draw a deep breath." Humphrey was reelected to the Senate in 1954. After an unsuccessful bid for the vice presidential nomination in 1956, he decided to run for president in 1960. Although favored at the start of the campaign to defeat John F. Kennedy, the Kennedy combination of youth, good looks, money, organization, and charm proved too much. After losing the West Virginia primary, Humphrey was forced to withdraw, though he continued his political career by winning reelection in the Senate. In 1961, Humphrey became assistant majority leader in the Senate and helped secure approval of the nuclear test ban treaty in 1963. After President Kennedy's assassination, Humphrey strongly supported President Johnson's civil rights and War on Poverty programs. In 1964, Johnson selected Humphrey to be his running mate. An unusually active vice president, Humphrey chaired several important presidential commissions, traveled widely as a goodwill ambassador, and much to the dismay of his liberal colleagues in the Senate, staunchly defended Johnson's conduct of the Vietnam War. After Johnson decided not to seek reelection, Humphrey, with the support of the regular party leaders and organized labor, entered the race for the nomination in competition with antiwar candidates Eugene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy's assassination and McCarthy's inability to broaden his base of support enabled Humphrey to win the party's nomination for president in 1968. The 1968 Democratic National Convention was marked by fighting that raged in the Chicago streets outside the convention hall between protesters and Mayor Richard J. Daley's police. During the campaign, Humphrey pulled away from his unequivocal support of Johnson's conduct of the war in Vietnam and almost succeeded in reuniting his badly fractured Democratic Party. He lost to Republican candidate Richard Nixon by only 1% of the popular vote in a three-way race that included George Wallace. Humphrey was reelected to the U.S. Senate in 1970 and made another unsuccessful attempt to win the nomination for president in 1972. During his long political career, Humphrey never wavered from his staunch support of organized labor. Yet his most ambitious labor proposal, the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Bill, was never passed by Congress. In 1976, even though he underwent surgery for cancer, Humphrey was reelected to the Senate. He died two years later, on January 13, 1978.