SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - George McGovern, the three-term senator from South Dakota and 1972 presidential candidate whose candidacy was marred by a running mate forced to withdraw over mental health issues, has died. He was 90.
McGovern died at 5:15 a.m. local time Sunday at a Sioux Falls hospice, surrounded by family and lifelong friends, family spokesman Steve Hildebrand told The Associated Press.
McGovern entered Dougherty Hospice House on Oct. 14 and two days later his family issued a statement saying he was unresponsive. McGovern had suffered from several health scares in the last year, including a serious fall in December prior to a live C-SPAN broadcast on his presidential campaign.
Though routed by Richard Nixon, McGovern's 1972 campaign influenced the Democratic Party in the decades that followed and greatly changed the party's rules over how future presidential candidates and party leaders were chosen. He devoted much of his last three decades to anti-hunger issues, teaming with former senator Bob Dole, a Republican and one-time adversary in the Senate, to establish school-lunch programs in some of the world's poorest nations.
"In the storied history of American politics, I believe no other presidential candidate ever had such an enduring impact in defeat," former president Bill Clinton said while was speaking in 2006 at the opening of the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D.
Clinton, along with his future wife, Hillary Rodham, were among the legions of young people who worked or volunteered for the 1972 McGovern campaign in what was the first presidential election following the ratification of the 26th Amendment, which set the voting age at 18. McGovern based his campaign on a call to end the Vietnam War, which McGovern had opposed in the Senate. But his "Come Home America" theme was derailed when his running mate, Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Missouri, was forced to withdraw after it was revealed he had received treatment for depression and exhaustion.
McGovern then chose Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver as his running mate. They won only one state, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia. McGovern even lost his home state of South Dakota to Nixon, something he would always consider a low point of his public career.
Born in Avon, S.D., on July 19, 1922, McGovern's father was a Wesleyan Methodist minister and minor league baseball player. The family moved to Mitchell, home of the Corn Palace, in 1928, and after graduating from high school in 1940, McGovern enrolled at Dakota Wesleyan. McGovern credited a high school debate coach, along with college forensic instructors, for instilling an interest in public speaking and service.
A public viewing is planned for 1 to 6 p.m. Thursday at First United Methodist Church in Sioux Falls. Members of the McGovern family will be at the viewing from 5 to 6 p.m.
A prayer service will follow at 6:30 p.m. at the church.
Funeral services are scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at Mary Sommervold Hall at the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science in Sioux Falls.
A private burial will take place at a later date at Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
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