McGovern, George Stanley

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

McGovern, George Stanley

George Stanley McGovern (məgŭv´ərn), 1922–2012, U.S. senator from South Dakota (1963–81), b. Avon, S.Dak. He was a decorated B-24 bomber pilot during World War II. He later obtained degrees from Dakota Wesleyan Univ. (B.A., 1946) and Northwestern (Ph.D., 1953) and taught (1949–53) American history at Dakota Wesleyan. After serving (1957–61) as a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, he was (1961–62) director of President Kennedy's Food for Peace Program and helped to found the UN World Food Program. Elected (1962) to the U.S. Senate, McGovern supported civil rights and antipoverty legislation and, along with Republican senator Bob Dole, was active in the development of food stamp and nutrition programs. He became an outspoken critic of defense spending and was among the first senators to oppose the Vietnam War. At the 1968 Democratic convention he tried unsuccessfully to rally the antiwar supporters of the late Robert F. Kennedy.

In 1971 McGovern announced his candidacy for the presidency, promising to end the war in Vietnam, cut defense spending by $30 billion, increase corporate taxes, and provide a guaranteed annual income for all Americans. His grassroots campaign won him the Democratic nomination in 1972, but his handling of the Thomas Eagleton affair, in which he announced full support for his running mate and then dropped him for Sargent Shriver, plus Republican charges of radicalism, contributed to his overwhelming defeat by Richard M. Nixon.

McGovern was reelected to the Senate in 1974 and served as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations under Presidents Ford and Carter. He lost a bid for a fourth Senate term in 1980, and made an unsuccessful run for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination. Under President Clinton, McGovern served as U.S. representative to the Food and Agriculture Organization. In 2001 he became the World Food Program's first global ambassador on hunger. He continued to be a vocal supporter liberal causes, and opposed the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. McGovern wrote War against Want (1964), A Time of War, A Time of Peace (1968), The Great Coalfield War (1972), Terry: My Daughter's Life-and-Death Struggle with Alcoholism (1996), The Third Freedom: Ending Hunger in Our Time (2001), The Essential America (2004), Out of Iraq (2006, with W. R. Polk), and What It Means to Be a Democrat (2011).

See his autobiography (1978); biography by R. S. Anson (1972); studies by R. Dougherty (1973), G. W. Hart (1973), and E. McGovern (1974); S. E. Ambrose, The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s over Germany (2001); B. Miroff: The Liberals' Moment: The McGovern Insurgency and the Identity Crisis of the Democratic Party (2007); J. M. Glasser, The Eighteen-Day Running Mate (2012).

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