Hubert H. Humphrey

Hubert H. Humphrey
Hubert H. Humphrey
Order: 38th Vice President
Term of Office: January 20, 1965
January 20, 1969
Predecessor: Lyndon Johnson
Succeeded by: Spiro Agnew
Date of Birth: May 27, 1911
Place of Birth: Wallace, South Dakota
Date of Death: January 13, 1978
Place of Death: Waverly, Minnesota
Wife: Muriel Humphrey
Profession: Pharmacist, teacher
Political Party: Democrat (DFL)
President: Lyndon Johnson

Hubert Horatio Humphrey II (May 27, 1911January 13, 1978) was the 38th Vice President of the United States, twice served as a United States Senator from Minnesota and was mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota.


Early years

Humphrey was born in Wallace, South Dakota (Codington County). He attended the public schools of Doland, South Dakota, where his family had moved. After public school, he graduated from Capitol College of Pharmacy, Denver in 1933. He then became a pharmacist with the Humphrey Drug Co. in Huron, South Dakota, from 1933 to 1937.

Humphrey then returned to school, receiving a degree from the University of Minnesota in 1939. He also earned a graduate degree from Louisiana State University in 1940, serving as an assistant instructor of political science there. He then became an instructor and graduate student at the University of Minnesota from 19401941. Humphrey never finished his Ph.D., and for this reason he was not allowed to teach in the political science department when he returned to the university after losing the 1968 presidential election to Richard Nixon.

City and state politics (1942-1948)

During World War II, he became state director of war production training and reemployment and State chief of Minnesota war service program 1942; assistant director, War Manpower Commission 1943; professor in political science at Macalester College in St. Paul 1943–1944; radio news commentator 1944–1945. In 1943, he made his first run at elective office, for mayor of Minneapolis, but he lost.

In 1944, Humphrey was the one of the key players in the merger of the Democratic and Farmer-Labor parties of Minnesota to form the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL).

After the war, he ran for and became mayor of Minneapolis 1945–1948. He was re-elected in 1947 by the largest margin in the city's history, to that time. Humphrey gained national fame during these years by co-founding the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), reforming the Minneapolis police force, and defeating the efforts of the local Communist Party to control the DFL.

The Happy Warrior (1948-1964)

The Democratic Party at the national level had been accommodating racial discrimination in the South, under the rubric of "states' rights". At the 1948 Democratic National Convention, the draft platform reflected this policy, and was supported by the incumbent President Harry S. Truman and the Democratic Party leadership. Humphrey and other liberals sought to substitute a strong civil rights plank. In one of the most renowned speeches in American political history, Humphrey told the Convention: "To those who say that this civil rights program is an infringement on states' rights, I say this, that the time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadows of states' rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights." Humphrey and his allies succeeded; the pro-civil-rights plank was narrowly adopted.

As a result of the Convention's vote, several Southern and conservative Northern delegations walked out of the hall. Many Southern Democrats were so enraged that they formed the "Dixiecrat" party and nominated their own presidential candidate, Strom Thurmond. Although the strong civil rights plank adopted at the Convention cost Truman the support of the Dixiecrats, it gained him important votes from blacks, especially in Northern cities. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough has written that Humphrey probably did more to get Truman elected in 1948 than anyone other than Truman himself.

Minnesota elected Humphrey to the United States Senate in 1948 on the DFL ticket, and he took office on January 3, 1949. Humphrey's father died that year, and Humphrey stopped using "Jr." He was reelected in 1954 and 1960. His colleagues selected him as majority whip in 1961, a position he held until he left the Senate on December 29, 1964.

In the Senate, Humphrey became known for his advocacy of liberal causes (such as civil rights, arms control, a nuclear test ban, food stamps, and humanitarian foreign aid), and for his long and witty speeches. He was chairman on the Select Committee on Disarmament (Eighty-fourth and Eighty-fifth Congresses). As Democratic whip in the Senate in 1964, Humphrey was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of that year.

Presidential and Vice-Presidential ambitions (1960-1969)

Humphrey ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960, but lost to Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy. He was elected Vice President of the United States on the Democratic ticket with Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and served from January 20, 1965, until January 20, 1969. As Vice President, Humphrey was controversial for his complete and vocal loyalty to Johnson and the policies of the Johnson Administration, even as many of Humphrey's liberal admirers opposed Johnson with increasing fervor about the Vietnam War. Even Humphrey's nickname, the Happy Warrior, was used against him. The nickname referred not to hawkishness but to Humphrey's crusading for social programs.

In Germany, Humphrey indirectly earned fame during an April 1967 visit when a plan of some Hippies to make a mess of a place where Humphrey was to speak with chocolate pudding was foiled by the police. The would-be vandals were dubbed "assassins" and "ten little Oswalds" in some widely-read right-leaning German newspapers; this characterization sparked riots by left-wing student activists. This "pudding assassination" thus became an early defining moment of the German part of the May 1968 movement, many of whose leaders moved into national politics later.

In 1968, the 22nd amendment did not disqualify LBJ from running for a second term, even though he succeeded into the presidency, because there were only 14 months remaining in Kennedy's term. However, after he announced that he would not run for a second term, Humphrey ran for President of the United States winning the United States Democratic Party nomination at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, amid riots and protests by antiwar demonstrators, some of whom favored Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, or other protest candidates. Humphrey lost the 1968 election to Richard M. Nixon. His campaign was hurt because Humphrey had secured the Presidential nomination without winning a single primary. (In later years, changes in party rules made such an outcome virtually impossible.)

While he was Vice President, Hubert Humphrey was the subject of a satirical song by songwriter/musician Tom Lehrer entitled "Whatever Became of Hubert?" ("I wonder how many people here tonight remember Hubert Humphrey. He used to be a senator..."). The song addressed how some liberals and progressives felt let down by how Humphrey, who had become a much more mute figure as Vice President than he had been as a senator. The song goes "Whatever became of Hubert? Has anyone heard a thing? Once he shone on his own, now he sits home alone and waits for the phone to ring. Once a fiery liberal spirit, ah, but now when he speaks he must clear it. ..."

Later years (1969-1978)

After leaving the Vice-Presidency, Humphrey kept busy by teaching at Macalester College and the University of Minnesota, and by serving as chairman of board of consultants of the Encyclopdia Britannica Educational Corporation.

Initially he had not planned to return to political life, but an unexpected opportunity changed his mind. Eugene McCarthy, a DFL U.S. Senator from Minnesota who was up for re-election in 1970, realized that he had only a slim chance of winning even re-nomination (he had angered his party by opposing Johnson and Humphrey for the 1968 presidential nomination), and declined to run. Humphrey won the DFL nomination and the election, and returned to the U.S. Senate on January 3, 1971. He was re-elected in 1976, and remained in office until his death.

In 1972, Humphrey once again ran for the Democratic nomination for president. He was defeated by Senator George McGovern in several primaries, and was trailing in delegates at the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida. His hopes rested on challenges to the credentials of some of the McGovern delegates. For example, the Humphrey forces argued that the winner-take-all rule for the California primary violated procedural reforms intended to produce a better reflection of the popular vote. The effort failed, as several votes on delegate credentials went McGovern's way, guaranteeing his victory. Humphrey also briefly considered mounting a campaign for the Democratic nomination from the Convention once again in 1976, when the primaries seemed likely to result in a deadlock, but ultimately decided against it.

Humphrey ran for Majority Leader after the 1976 election but lost to Robert Byrd of West Virginia. The Senate honored Humphrey by creating the post of Deputy President pro tempore of the Senate for him. On August 16, 1977, Humphrey revealed that he had terminal cancer. In October 1977, Humphrey became the first person other than a Member or the President to address the House of Representatives in session. President Carter honored him by giving him command of Air Force One for his final trip to Washington. One of Humphrey's speeches contained the lines "It was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped," which is sometimes described as the "liberals' mantra."

After Humphrey's death at home in Waverly, Minnesota, he lay in state in the rotundas of both the U.S. Capitol and the Minnesota State Capitol. His body was interred in Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Buildings and institutions named for Humphrey

See also


  • Humphrey, Hubert H. The Education of a Public Man: My Life and Politics. Garden City, N. Y. : Doubleday, 1976.
  • Solberg, Carl. Hubert Humphrey: A Biography. New York : Norton, 1984.

External links

Preceded by:
Joseph H. Ball
U.S. Senator from Minnesota
1949 – 1964
Succeeded by:
Walter Mondale
Preceded by:
Lyndon B. Johnson
Democratic Party Vice Presidential candidate
1964 (won)
Succeeded by:
Edmund Muskie
Preceded by:
Lyndon B. Johnson
Vice President of the United States
January 20, 1965January 20, 1969
Succeeded by:
Spiro Agnew
Preceded by:
Lyndon B. Johnson
Democratic Party Presidential candidate
1968 (lost)
Succeeded by:
George McGovern
Preceded by:
Eugene McCarthy
U.S. Senator from Minnesota
1971 – 1978
Succeeded by:
Muriel Humphrey

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