Sunday, December 5, 2021

Mondale walked in the shadow of Hubert Humphrey

Minnesota lost another major icon when former Vice President Walter (Fritz) Mondale passed away last week at age 93.

I am privileged to say that I met Mondale on a number of occasions during his political career. It was safe to say that Mondale walked in the shadow of his predecessor Hubert H. Humphrey.

Humphrey served as Minnesota senator and ran successfully as President Lyndon B. Johnson's vice president in 1964. He served as vice president from 1964-1968. He carried the banner as the DFL's nominee for president in 1968. He lost to Richard M. Nixon in the 1968 election.

Mondale has similar credentials to Humphrey as he served as a U.S. senator, was elected vice president in 1976 as President Jimmy Carter's running mate and ran as the DFL's presidential nominee in 1984. Mondale chose a woman as his running mate, Geraldine Ferraro.

Mondale and Ferraro lost in a landslide to President Ronald Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. Mondale carried only one state, his home state of Minnesota.

Mondale was born in Ceylon, which is located in southwestern Minnesota, close to the Iowa border. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1951 after attending Macalester College.

Mondale served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War before earning a law degree in 1956.

Mondale was appointed Minnesota Attorney General in 1960 by Minnesota Gov. Orville Freeman. He was elected to a full term as attorney general in 1962 with 60% of the vote.

That's when I first met Mondale. I was a cub reporter with the Albert Lea Tribune and was assigned to cover a state plowing contest in Waseca in September of 1965.

As I entered the contest grounds, I met up with Mondale, dressed in a suit and tall boots. Waseca was a muddy mess due to torrential rains. "Can I get a picture of you?" I asked Mondale. He agreed and showed that political smile that stayed with him during his political career.

U.S. Congressman Gerald Ford and actor James Nabors (Gomer Pyle) was also guests on this day of the monsoon rains.

My second encounter with Mondale came in 1976 when the American Freedom Train visited Minnesota to celebrate America's Bicentennial.

Former Vice President Humphrey was given the honor of being the train engineer on this date. The media and Mondale were placed in the caboose. I recall Mondale telling us: "We'll let the kid (Vice President Humphrey) have the glory."

My son Troy and I actually sat in Vice President Mondale's office chair in 1979 in Washington, D.C. while he was serving under President Carter.

A fellow Forest Lake Times editor Cliff Buchan asked me to attend a rally for Vice President Mondale in 1984, the day before the November election won handily by President Reagan. My daughter Tammi attended with us.

Mondale's plane was delayed, and he didn't arrive at a Minneapolis St. Paul hangar until nearly midnight.

I re-introduced myself to Mondale in 2004, seeing him at my boss Elmer L. Andersen's funeral. He graciously shook my hand and said how much he admired former Minnesota Gov. Andersen.

While attending a Minnesota Twins baseball game several years ago at Target Field, I sat near a man who I'm sure was Walter Mondale. I chose not to interrupt his privacy.

Mondale was an eloquent speaker and an effective statesman. He was instrumental in helping pass civil rights legislation while he served as a U.S. Senator.

He tossed his hat into the ring for U.S. Senate in 2002, replacing Sen. Paul Wellstone, (D), who was killed in an airplane crash just days before the 2002 election.

Minnesota can lay claim to having two vice presidents in Humphrey and Mondale. I am also proud to say that I have met both of them.



Photo: This is the official portrait of Walter (Fritz) Mondale in 1977 as he was serving as the 42nd Vice President of the United States under President Jimmy Carter. He also became ambassador to Japan under President Bill Clinton.

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