Hubert Horatio Humphrey, Jr. (May 27, 1911 - January 13, 1978) was the thirty-eighth Vice President of the United States, serving under President Lyndon Johnson. Humphrey served a total of five terms as a United States Senator from Minnesota, and served as Democratic Majority Whip. He was a founder of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and Americans for Democratic Action. He also served as mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota, from 1945-1949. In 1968, Humphrey was the nominee of the Democratic Party in the United States presidential election but narrowly lost to the Republican nominee, Richard M. Nixon.
Humphrey was strongly committed to achieving civil rights for all. He told the 1948 Democratic National Convention, "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," winning support for a pro-civil rights plank in the Party's platform. This controversial stance strengthened support by northern black voters for Truman and weakening influence of southern conservative democrats.
Humphrey was born in Wallace, South Dakota. He was the son of Hubert Humphrey, Sr. and Ragnild Kristine Sannes, a Norwegian.1 Humphrey spent most of his youth in the small town of Doland, South Dakota, on the Dakota prairie. His father was the town pharmacist and a community leader who served as Doland's mayor and as a town council member. In the late 1920s, the Great Depression hit Doland. Both banks in town closed. Humphrey's father struggled to keep his drugstore open. After his son graduated from Doland's high school, Hubert, Sr. left Doland and opened a new drugstore in the larger town of Huron, South Dakota, where he hoped to improve his fortunes. As a result of the family's financial struggles, Hubert had to leave the University of Minnesota after just one year to help his father in the new drugstore. He quickly earned a pharmacist's license from the Drew College of Pharmacy in Denver, Colorado, and spent from 1930 to 1937 helping his father run the family drugstore. In time, the Humphrey Drug Company in Huron became profitable and the family prospered again.
Hubert did not enjoy working as a pharmacist. He aspired to earn a doctorate in political science and become a college professor. In 1937, Humphrey returned to the University of Minnesota, completing a bachelor's degree in 1939. The following year, he earned a master's degree from Louisiana State University, serving as an assistant instructor of political science there. One of his classmates was Russell B. Long, a future senator from Louisiana.
After completing his master's degree, Hubert returned to Minnesota to become an instructor and graduate student at the University of Minnesota from 1940 to 1941. He joined the American Federation of Teachers, and was also a supervisor for the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Humphrey soon became active in Minneapolis politics and as a result, he never finished his Ph.D.
Marriage and family
In 1934, Hubert began dating Muriel Buck, a bookkeeper and graduate of local Huron College. They were married in 1936, and remained married until Humphrey's death at age 66, nearly 42 years later. They had four children: Hubert Humphrey III, Nancy, Robert, and Douglas.
Through most of Humphrey's years as a U.S. Senator and Vice-President the family home was located in a modest middle-class housing development in Chevy Chase, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C.
Humphrey and his family officially held membership in Minneapolis' First Congregational Church, now affiliated with the United Church of Christ. They also attended United Methodist congregations in Minneapolis and suburban Washington, D.C.
In the 1960s, Hubert and Muriel used their savings to build a lakefront home in Waverly, Minnesota, forty miles west of Minneapolis.
Career, initiation into city and state politics (1942-1948)
During World War II, Humphrey tried twice to join the armed forces, but was rejected both times due to a hernia. To support the war effort, he served in an administrative capacity in a variety of wartime government agencies. In 1942, he was appointed state Director of New Production Training and Reemployment and Chief of the Minnesota War Service Program. In 1943, he became Assistant Director of the War Manpower Commission. From 1943-1944, Humphrey was a professor in political science at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1944 and 1945, he was a news commentator for a Minneapolis radio station.
In 1943, Humphrey made his first run for elective office, for mayor of Minneapolis. Although he lost, his poorly-funded campaign captured over 47 percent of the vote. In 1944, Humphrey was a key player in the merger of the United States Democratic Party and the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota. The merger formed the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL). When, in 1945, Minnesota Communists attempted to seize control of the new party, Humphrey became an engaged anti-Communist and led the successful fight to oust the Communists from the DFL.
After the war, he ran for mayor of Minneapolis again, and won the election with 61 percent of the vote. He served as mayor from 1945-1949. In 1947, Humphrey's re-election was by the largest margin in the city's history. Humphrey gained national fame during these years by becoming one of the founders of the liberal anti-communist Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) and for reforming the Minneapolis police force. Previously, the city had been declared the antisemitism capital of the country. The small African-American population of the city had encountered numerous instances of racial discrimination from the police. Humphrey worked hard to end these examples of racism, making him well known for his efforts to fight bigotry in all its forms during his tenure as mayor.
The 1948 Democratic National Convention
The national Democratic Party of 1948 was split between liberals who thought the federal government should guarantee civil rights for non-whites and southern conservatives who thought states should choose what civil rights their citizens would enjoy (the "states' rights" position). At the 1948 Democratic National Convention, the party platform reflected this division and contained only platitudes in favor of civil rights. Though the incumbent President Harry S. Truman had already issued a detailed 10-point Civil Rights Program calling for aggressive federal action on the issue of civil rights, he gave his backing to the party establishment's platform that was a replication of the 1944 Democratic National Convention plank on civil rights.
A diverse coalition opposed this tepid platform, including anti-communist liberals Humphrey, Paul Douglas, and John Shelley. The three would later become known as leading progressives in the Democratic Party. These men proposed adding a "minority plank" to the party platform that would commit the Democratic Party to more aggressive opposition to racial segregation. The minority plank called for federal legislation against lynching, an end to legalized school segregation in the South, and ending job discrimination based on skin color. Also strongly backing the liberal civil rights plank were Democratic urban bosses like Ed Flynn of the Bronx, who promised the votes of northeastern delegates for Humphrey's platform, Jacob Arvey of Chicago, and David Lawrence of Pittsburgh. Although viewed as being conservatives, these urban bosses believed that Northern Democrats could gain many black votes by supporting civil rights, and that losses among anti-civil rights Southern Democrats would be relatively small. Though many scholars have suggested that labor unions were leading figures in this coalition, no significant labor leaders attended the convention, with the exception of the heads of the Congress of Industrial Organizations Political Action Committee (CIOPAC), Jack Kroll and A.F. Whitney.
Despite aggressive pressure by Truman's aides to avoid forcing the issue on the Convention floor, Humphrey chose to speak on behalf of the minority plank. In a renowned speech, Humphrey passionately told the Convention, "My friends, to those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years too late! To those who say, this civil rights program is an infringement on states' rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow 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, the Mississippi delegation and half of the Alabama delegation walked out of the hall. Many Southern Democrats were so enraged at this affront to their "way of life" that they formed the Dixiecrat party and nominated their own presidential candidate, Governor Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. The goal of the Dixiecrats was to take several Southern states away from Truman and thus cause his defeat. The Southern Democrats reasoned that after such a defeat the national Democratic Party would never again aggressively pursue a pro-civil rights agenda. However, this move actually backfired. 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 large northern cities. As a result Truman won a stunning upset victory over his Republican Party opponent, Thomas E. Dewey. Truman's victory demonstrated that the Democratic Party no longer needed the "Solid South" to win presidential elections, and thus weakened Southern Democrats instead of strengthening their position. Pulitzer Prize winning historian David McCullough wrote that Humphrey probably did more to get Truman elected, in 1948, than anyone other than Truman himself.
Senator and advocate of liberal causes (1948-1964)
Minnesota elected Humphrey to the United States Senate in 1948, on the DFL ticket. He took office on January 3, 1949. Humphrey's father died that same year, and Humphrey stopped using the "Jr." suffix on his name. He was re-elected 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, to assume the vice presidency.
Initially, Humphrey was ostracized by Southern Democrats for his support of civil rights. They dominated most of the Senate leadership positions and sought to punish Humphrey for proposing the successful civil rights platform at the 1948 Convention. Humphrey refused to be intimidated and stood his ground. His passion and eloquence eventually earned him the respect of even most of the Southerners.
Humphrey became known for his advocacy of liberal causes such as civil rights, the Food Stamp Program, humanitarian foreign aid, arms control, and a nuclear test ban. He served as chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Disarmament during the 84th and 85th Congresses. Humphrey was also known as a fine orator, for his long and witty speeches.
During the period of McCarthyism (1950-1954), Humphrey was accused of being soft on Communism, despite having been one of the founders of the anti-communist liberal organization Americans for Democratic Action. He was also a staunch supporter of the Truman Administration's efforts to combat the growth of the Soviet Union, and he fought Communist political activities in Minnesota and elsewhere. In 1954, Humphrey proposed to make mere membership in the Communist Party a felony-a proposal that failed.
As Democratic whip in the Senate in 1964, Humphrey was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
Humphrey's consistently cheerful and upbeat demeanor, and his forceful advocacy of liberal causes, led him to be nicknamed "The Happy Warrior" by many of his Senate colleagues and political journalists.
Presidential and Vice-Presidential ambitions (1952-1964)
As one of the most respected members of the U.S. Senate, Humphrey ran for the Democratic presidential nomination twice before his election to the Vice Presidency in 1964.
In the 1960 presidential primaries, Humphrey ran against fellow Senator John F. Kennedy. Their first electoral encounter was in the Wisconsin primary. Kennedy's well-organized and well funded campaign defeated Humphrey's energetic but poorly funded effort.
Kennedy's attractive brothers, sisters, and wife combed the state looking for votes. At one point Humphrey complained that he "felt like an independent merchant running against a chain store." Kennedy won the Wisconsin primary, but by a smaller margin than anticipated; some commentators argued that Kennedy's victory margin had come almost entirely from areas that were heavily Roman Catholic, and that Protestants actually supported Humphrey. As a result, Humphrey refused to quit the race and decided to run against Kennedy again in the West Virginia primary. Humphrey calculated that his midwestern populist roots and Protestant religion (he was a Congregationalist) would appeal to the state's disenfranchised voters more than the Ivy League and Catholic millionaire's son, Kennedy. But Kennedy led comfortably until the issue turned to religion. When asked why he was quickly losing ground in polls, one adviser explained to Kennedy, "no one knew you were a Catholic then."
Kennedy chose to engage the religion issue head-on. In radio broadcasts, he carefully repositioned the issue from one of Catholic versus Protestant to tolerance versus intolerance. Kennedy appealed to West Virginia's long-held revulsion for prejudice and placed Humphrey, who had championed tolerance his entire career, on the defensive. Kennedy attacked him with a vengeance. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., the son of the former President, stumped for Kennedy in West Virginia, raising the issue of Humphrey's failure to serve in the armed forces in World War II (Humphrey had been rejected for medical reasons). Humphrey, who was short on funds, could not match the well-financed Kennedy operation. He traveled around the state in a cold, rented bus while Kennedy and his staff flew around West Virginia in a large, modern, family-owned airplane. Kennedy defeated Humphrey soundly, winning 60.8 percent of the vote in that state. The evening of the primary, Humphrey announced that he was no longer a candidate for the presidency. By winning the West Virginia primary, Kennedy was able to overcome the belief that Protestant voters would not elect a Catholic candidate to the Presidency and thus sewed up the Democratic nomination for President.
Humphrey did win the South Dakota and District of Columbia primaries, which JFK did not enter. At the 1960 Democratic Convention he received 41 votes, even though he was no longer an active presidential candidate.
At the 1964 Democratic National Convention, Lyndon B. Johnson kept the three likely vice presidential candidates, Connecticut Senator Thomas Dodd, fellow Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy, and Humphrey, as well as the rest of the nation in suspense before announcing Humphrey as his running-mate with much fan-fare, praising Humphrey's qualifications for a considerable amount of time before announcing his name.
The following day, Humphrey's acceptance speech overshadowed Johnson's own acceptance address:
Hubert warmed up with a long tribute to the President, then hit his stride as he began a rhythmic jabbing and chopping at Barry Goldwater. "Most Democrats and Republicans in the Senate voted for an $11.5 billion tax cut for American citizens and American business," he cried, "but not Senator Goldwater. Most Democrats and Republicans in the Senate-in fact four-fifths of the members of his own party-voted for the Civil Rights Act, but not Senator Goldwater." Time after time, he capped his indictments with the drumbeat cry: "But not Senator Goldwater!" The delegates caught the cadence and took up the chant. A quizzical smile spread across Humphrey's face, then turned to a laugh of triumph. Hubert was in fine form. He knew it. The delegates knew it. And no one could deny that Hubert Humphrey would be a formidable political antagonist in the weeks ahead.2
In the U.S. presidential election or 1964, the Johnson/Humphrey ticket won overwhelmingly, garnering 486 electoral votes out of 538. Minnesota voted for the Democratic ticket; only five Southern states and Goldwater's home state of Arizona supported the Republican ticket.
The Vice Presidency
Humphrey took office on January 20, 1965. 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 with respect to Johnson's policies during the war in Vietnam. Many of Humphrey's liberal friends and allies over the years abandoned him because of his refusal to publicly criticize Johnson's Vietnam War policies. Humphrey's critics later learned that Johnson had threatened Humphrey. Johnson told Humphrey that if he publicly opposed his Administration's Vietnam War policy, he would destroy Humphrey's chances to become President by opposing his nomination at the next Democratic Convention. However, Humphrey's critics were vocal and persistent. Even his nickname, the Happy Warrior, was used against him. The nickname referred not to his military hawkishness but rather to his crusading for social welfare and civil rights programs.
The 1968 Presidential election
As 1968 began, it appeared President Johnson, despite the rapidly-increasing unpopularity of the Vietnam War, would easily win the Democratic nomination again. Humphrey indicated to Johnson that he would like to be his running mate again. However, in the New Hampshire primary Johnson was nearly defeated by Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota. McCarthy had challenged Johnson on an anti-war platform. A few days later, Senator Robert Kennedy of New York also entered the race on an anti-war platform.
On March 31, 1968, a week before the Wisconsin primary, President Lyndon B. Johnson stunned the nation by withdrawing from his race for a second term. Humphrey immediately re-evaluated his position. He announced his presidential candidacy in late April 1968. Many people saw Humphrey as Johnson's stand-in. He won major backing from the nation's labor unions and other Democratic groups that were troubled by antiwar protesters and social unrest around the nation. Humphrey avoided the primaries and concentrated on winning delegates in non-primary states. By June he was seen as the clear front-runner for the nomination.
Following his victory over McCarthy in the California primary, Kennedy had hope that he could unite the forces opposed to the Vietnam War and possibly beat Humphrey for the nomination. This was not to be. The night of the California primary, Senator Kennedy was assassinated.
With the support of Mayor Richard Daley, Humphrey and his running mate, Ed Muskie easily won the Democratic nomination at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois. Unfortunately for Humphrey's presidential chances, outside the convention hall there were riots and protests by thousands of antiwar demonstrators, some of whom favored Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, or other "anti-war" candidates. These antiwar protestors - most of whom were young college students - were attacked and beaten on live television by Chicago police. Humphrey's inaction during the riots, and the turmoil within the Democratic Party, created divisions that Humphrey was never able to overcome in the general election, despite a vigorous and forceful campaign. Humphrey was also hurt by the third-party campaign of former Alabama Governor George Wallace, a Southern Democrat whose veiled racism and militant opposition to antiwar protestors attracted millions of Northern and Midwestern blue-collar votes that would otherwise have probably gone to Humphrey.
Humphrey lost the 1968 election to Richard M. Nixon. His campaign was hurt in part because Humphrey had secured the presidential nomination without entering a single primary. In later years, changes to the party rules made such an outcome virtually impossible. During his underdog campaign, voters saw a transparent decency as well as a mind that quickly grasped complicated issues. Starting out substantially behind Nixon in the polls, he had almost closed the gap by election day. Humphrey lost the election by 0.7 percent of the popular vote: 43.4 percent (31,783,783 votes) for Nixon to 42.7 percent (31,271,839 votes) for Humphrey, with 13.5 percent (9,901,118 votes) for George Wallace of Alabama. In the electoral college, Humphrey carried 13 states with 191 electoral votes, to Nixon's 32 states and 301 electoral votes, and Wallace's 5 states and 46 electoral votes.
Immensely admired by associates and members of his staff, Humphrey could not break loose from the domination of Lyndon Johnson. The combination of the unpopularity of Johnson, the Chicago riots, and the discouragement of liberals and African-Americans when both Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated during the election year, caused him to lose to a candidate many thought less qualified to be president.
Post-Vice Presidency (1969-1978)
Teaching and return to the Senate
After leaving the Vice Presidency, Humphrey utilized his talents by teaching at Macalester College and the University of Minnesota. He also served as chairman of the board of consultants at the Encyclopædia Britannica Educational Corporation.
Initially, he had not planned to return to political life, but an unexpected opportunity changed his mind. Eugene McCarthy, DFL U.S. Senator from Minnesota was up for re-election to the Senate in 1970. McCarthy realized he had only a slim chance of winning renomination because he had angered his party by opposing Johnson and Humphrey for the 1968 presidential nomination. So he declined to run. Humphrey won the DFL nomination and the election, returning 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 ran again for the Democratic nomination for president. He was defeated by Senator George McGovern in several primaries, trailed in delegates at the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Florida. His hopes rested on challenges to the credentials of some of the McGovern delegates. The challenge failed, guaranteeing McGovern's 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. At the conclusion of the Democratic primaries that year, even with Jimmy Carter having requisite number of delegates needed to secure his nomination, many still wanted Humphrey to announce his availability for a "draft" movement. However, he did not. Carter easily secured the nomination on the first round of balloting. What wasn't known to the general public was that Humphrey already knew he had terminal cancer.
Deputy President pro tempore of the Senate (1976-1978)
In 1974, Humphrey partnered with Rep. Augustus Hawkins of California, in authoring the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act. this was the first attempt at full employment legislation. The original bill proposed to guarantee full employment to all citizens over 16 and set up a permanent system of public jobs to meet that goal. A watered-down version called the Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act passed the House and Senate in 1978. It set the goal of 4 percent unemployment and 3 percent inflation and instructed the Federal Reserve Board to try to produce those goals when making policy decisions.
Humphrey ran for Senate 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 his terminal cancer to the public. On October 25, 1977, he addressed the Senate. On November 3, 1977, Humphrey became the first person other than the president or a member of the the House of Representatives to address the House in session. President Carter honored him by giving him command of Air Force One for his final trip to Washington, on October 23.
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."
Humphrey spent his last weeks calling old political acquaintances on a special long-distance telephone his family had given him. He also placed a call to his former foe in the 1968 presidential election, Richard Nixon, only to learn the depressed state of the Nixons. Disturbed by this, he called Nixon back to invite the former president to his upcoming funeral. Nixon accepted. After his death at home in Waverly, Minnesota, Humphrey lay in state in the rotunda of both the United States Capitol and the Minnesota State Capitol. His body was interred in Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Humphrey's wife, Muriel, was appointed to finish her husband's term in office.
Hubert Humphrey is remembered as a man whose vision was wide enough and whose heart was deep enough to respect all people's dignity and humanity. Against those who still opposed racial equality and the extension of Civil Rights to all, especially to black Americans, he knew that only when this was achieved would America live up to the highest ideals it espoused. Even if the founding fathers meant 'white men' when they said that "all men are created equal" and excluded women and slaves, he knew that the truth that lies behind these words is more profound than those who wrote the Declaration of Independence. How true were the words he spoke, "My friends, to those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years too late! To those who say, this civil rights program is an infringement on states' rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states' rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights!" It took another two decades before there was much movement towards implementing his vision but he had the vision and when such men as Martin Luther King, Jr and others, inspired by Rosa Parks took up the struggle, legislation finally followed in the Civil Rights Act (1964).
In 1965, Humphrey was made an Honorary Life Member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate fraternity established for African American males.
He was awarded posthumously the Congressional Gold Medal on June 13, 1979 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980.
Buildings and institutions named for Humphrey
- The Hubert H. Humphrey Terminal at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport
- The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome domed stadium in Minneapolis
- The Hubert H. Humphrey Job Corps Center in St. Paul, Minn.
- The Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and its building, the Hubert H. Humphrey Center
- The Hubert H. Humphrey Building of the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington
- The Hubert H. Humphrey Bridge carrying Florida State Road 520 over the Indian River Lagoon between Cocoa, Florida and Merritt Island in Brevard County, Florida
- The Hubert H. Humphrey Middle School in Bolingbrook, Illinois.
- The Hubert H. Humphrey Comprehensive Health Center of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services in Los Angeles, CA.
- ↑ RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project, An Extended family. Retrieved November 9, 2007.
- ↑ Time Magazine, The Man Who Quit Kicking the Wall. Retrieved November 9, 2007.
- ↑ City Hall and Courthouse, Municipal Building Commission: City Hall and Courthouse timeline. Retrieved November 9, 2007.
- Berman, Edgar. Hubert: The Triumph And Tragedy Of The Humphrey I Knew. New York,: G.P. Putnam's & Sons, 1979. ISBN 0399123148
- Cohen, Dan. Undefeated: The Life of Hubert H. Humphrey. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1978. ISBN 0822599538
- Garrettson, Charles L. III. Hubert H. Humphrey: The Politics of Joy. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1993. ISBN 1560000295
- Humphrey, Hubert H. The Education of a Public Man: My Life and Politics. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976. ISBN 0385056036
- Mann, Robert. The Walls of Jericho: Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Richard Russell and the Struggle for Civil Rights. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1996. ISBN 0151000654
- Solberg, Carl. Hubert Humphrey: A Biography. New York: Norton, 1984. ISBN 0393018067
- Taylor, Jeff. Where Did the Party Go?: William Jennings Bryan, Hubert Humphrey, and the Jeffersonian Legacy. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2006. ISBN 0826216595
- Thurber, Timothy N. The Politics of Equality: Hubert H. Humphrey and the African American Freedom Struggle. NY: Columbia University Press, 1999. ISBN 0231110464