US politician and academic;
Born: July 19, 1922; Died: October 21, 2012.
George McGovern, who has died aged 90, was a liberal former US Democrat senator who lost to president Richard Nixon in 1972 in one of the biggest landslides in modern American history.
Mr McGovern was a bomber pilot in the Second World War and elected to his first of three Senate terms in 1962. An early critic of the Vietnam War, he ran for President three times, also making a try for the nomination in 1968 and 1984.
Mr McGovern said he learned to hate war by waging it, and in his disastrous race against Mr Nixon he promised to end the conflict in Vietnam and cut defence spending by billions of dollars.
He helped create the Food for Peace programme and spent much of his career believing the US should be more accommodating to the former Soviet Union.
Never a showman, he made his case with a style as plain as the prairies where he grew up, often sounding more like the Methodist minister he had once studied to be than a long-time US senator and three-time candidate for President.
And Mr McGovern never shied from the word "liberal," even as other Democrats blanched at the label and Republicans used it as an epithet. "I am a liberal and always have been," he said in 2001. "Just not the wild-eyed character the Republicans made me out to be."
Americans voting for President in 1972 were aware of the Watergate break-in that led to Mr Nixon's downfall but the most damaging details of his involvement would not emerge until after election day.
Mr McGovern tried to make a campaign issue out of the bungled attempt to wiretap the offices of the Democratic National Committee, and he called Mr Nixon the most corrupt President in history, but the issue could not eclipse the embarrassing mis-steps of his own campaign.
Mr McGovern was tortured by the selection of Missouri senator Thomas F Eagleton as the vice-presidential nominee, and 18 days later, following the disclosure that Mr Eagleton had undergone electroshock therapy for depression, decided to drop him from the ticket, despite having pledged to back him "1000%".
It was at once the most memorable and damaging line of his campaign, and called "possibly the most single damaging faux pas ever made by a presidential candidate" by the late political writer Theodore H White.
After a hard day's campaigning – Mr Nixon did virtually none – Mr McGovern would complain to those around him that nobody was paying attention. With R Sargent Shriver as his running mate, he went on to carry only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, winning just 38% of the popular vote. Noting that Mr Nixon and his running mate, Spiro Agnew, would both ultimately resign, he joked: "If we had run in '74 instead of '72, it would have been a piece of cake."
Despite his setbacks he inspired scores of budding politicians: Bill Clinton was his Texas co-ordinator before becoming governor of Arkansas, then president. Gary Hart was his campaign manager before becoming a senator from Colorado, then a candidate for the White House.
George McGovern was born in a parsonage in Avon, South Dakota, and grew up in the town of Mitchell. His father was a fundamentalist Methodist minister and a political conservative. He enrolled at Dakota Wesleyan University and married classmate Eleanor Stegeberg but left to fly a B-24 in the Second World War and won a Distinguished Flying Cross for bringing home a badly damaged plane and all of its crew after a raid over Germany.
After the war he returned to Dakota Wesleyan, then entered Garrett Theological Seminary in Chicago before returning to Dakota Wesleyan to teach.
In 1956 he ran for Congress and became the first Democrat from South Dakota to be elected to the House of Representatives in 22 years. After two terms, he ran for the Senate in 1960, but lost.
Newly elected President John F Kennedy asked Mr McGovern to open an agency to send surplus food abroad. By late 1961, Mr McGovern had Mr Kennedy's Food for Peace programme operating in a dozen countries. It was one of Mr McGovern's proudest achievements.
In 1962 he became the first Democrat elected to the Senate from South Dakota in 26 years. His chief interest was world peace. After Robert Kennedy was assassinated during his run for President, McGovern mounted his first campaign for the White House. He was defeated at the 1968 Democratic Convention, where young anti-war protesters were clubbed by police on the streets of Chicago.
In 1980, as the US shifted to the right, he lost his Senate seat and after a failed attempt to win the Democrat nomination in 1984 returned to teaching.
In 1994 his daughter Teresa, who suffered from depression and alcoholism, was found in Madison, Wisconsin, frozen to death after an evening of drinking. She was 45 and the mother of two.
Then, in 1998, his son, Steven, also an alcoholic, was jailed for beating his female companion. He died in July.
In 1998, President Clinton sent him to Rome as the US ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and in 2000 awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honour.
George McGovern's wife, Eleanor, died in 2007. He is survived by his daughters Ann, Susan and Mary, 12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
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