George McGovern died on October 21 at the age of 90. Those of us who remember the presidential election of 1972, forty years ago, recall that McGovern lost that election in the worst defeat in presidential history. He lost the popular vote by 18 million votes and lost to Richard Nixon in the Electoral Vote by 520 to 17. I voted for him and was in that minority of 29 million of Americans who hoped his election would hasten the end of the long war in Vietnam.
The last time I saw Senator McGovern was in May 2009. He was the featured speaker at a conference on President Harry Truman, held at Truman’s “Little White House,” in Key West, Florida. He had just written a very nice short, interpretive biography of Abraham Lincoln and he spoke to the conference on Lincoln.
In Key West, the dress is casual, and McGovern showed up in Bermuda shorts, but wore a purple dress shirt, open at the collar, and dress shoes and socks. It was about as formal looking as you could get while wearing shorts. Ken Hechler, former Congressman from West Virginia, was at the conference too. Hechler, at age 95, was one of the last living members of President Truman’s staff. McGovern and Hechler had a grand time reminiscing.