One of South Dakota's most iconic and prominent political figures, Senator George McGovern, has died at the age of 90.
"At approximately 5:15 am this morning, our wonderful father, George McGovern passed away peacefully at the Dougherty Hospice House in Sioux Falls, SD, surrounded by our family and life-long friends.
We are blessed to know that our father lived a long, successful and productive life advocating for the hungry, being a progressive voice for millions and fighting for peace. He continued giving speeches, writing and advising all the way up to and past his 90th birthday, which he celebrated this summer," the statement said.
McGovern entered hospice care in Sioux Falls Monday.
McGovern was born in Avon, South Dakota on July 19, 1922. In 1928, his family moved to Mitchell. He graduated from Mitchell High School in 1940. McGovern stayed in Mitchell to attend Dakota Wesleyan University where he met his future wife, Eleanor Stegeberg, of Woonsocket. The two married on October 31, 1943, and all five of their children were born in Mitchell.
In 1943, McGovern's education at DWU was put on hold as he served in World War II as a B-24 pilot. He flew 35 combat missions as a bomber pilot in Europe and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals.
When the war was over, McGovern left as a First Lieutenant and returned home to graduate from DWU in 1946. After graduation McGovern, the son of a Wesleyan Methodist minister, attended Garrett Seminary for one year before attending Northwestern University in Chicago. McGovern earned his M.A. and Ph.D. at Northwestern University.
Despite the numerous years of schooling, McGovern's role in education was not finished in Chicago. He returned to Dakota Wesleyan University in 1950 to 1955 as a professor of history and political science, soon becoming a respected faculty member.
McGovern's political career started in 1956 when he was elected to Congress. He was reelected in 1958. McGovern lost a U.S. Senate bid in 1960 but won a Senate position in 1962. In between the years he was in the House and Senate, President John F. Kennedy named McGovern the first director of the Food for Peace Program and Special Assistant to the President.
McGovern became Sen. McGovern from 1962 to 1980. During that time he became an example for contemporary American liberalism and was well known for being outspoken against the United States' growing involvement in the Vietnam War.
In 1968, Sen. McGovern briefly ran for the presidential nomination for the Democratic Party, after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Although he didn't win the party's nomination, the McGovern-Fraser Commission, or the Commission on Party Structure and Delegate Selection was created, which changed the Democratic presidential nominating process by increasing caucuses and primaries and reducing the influence of party insiders.
McGovern ran for president again in 1972, this time becoming the Democratic Party's nominee. However, in the general election McGovern lost to President Richard Nixon. McGovern was re-elected to the U.S. Senate in 1968 and 1974, but lost his fourth term bid in 1980 to James Abdnor, who passed away May 16, 2012.
McGovern's political career continued strong in the late ‘70s. President Gerald Ford named him a United Nations delegate to the General Assembly in 1974. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter named him a United Nations delegate for the Special Session on Disarmament.
In 1998, again McGovern was pointed to a United Nations agency. President Bill Clinton appointed McGovern as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture. He served as ambassador until 2001.
McGovern never forgot his roots in South Dakota and because of his work he became an outspoken voice on behalf of American farmers and hungry children throughout the world—whether or not he was serving the U.S. government.
McGovern has written more than a dozen books including an autobiography, writings on politics and his political career, on liberal politics, his family and agriculture and world hunger issues.
One of McGovern's most notable legacies is his fight to end hunger across the world. In an article on staugustine.com he said, "After I'm gone, I want people to say about me, ‘He did the best he could to end hunger in this country and the world.'"
In his novel The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw wrote a testament to McGovern's legacy, writing, "He remains one of the country's most decent and thoughtful public servants."
In a newspaper article from October 2006, Associated Press writer Adam Geller was interviewing McGovern just before the former senator was to speak about the evils of war. During the interview, Geller noted the Serenity Prayer hangs on the wall just outside his office. The prayer reads: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.
Geller asked McGovern if the prayer hangs there as a personal credo. The former senator answered, "No. I keep trying to change them."
The following information has been provided by the Miller Funeral Home in Sioux Falls:
Thursday, October 25, 2012: Public viewing will be held from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 401 S. Spring Avenue, Sioux Falls, SD, with the family present to greet friends from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m..
A 6:30 p.m. Prayer Service will follow the visitation at the church.
Funeral Services will begin at 1:00 p.m., Friday at the Mary Sommervold Hall at the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science, 301 S. Main Avenue, Sioux Falls, SD. Private burial will take place at Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, DC, at a later date.
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