Humphrey, Hubert H. (1911–1978)

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HUMPHREY, HUBERT H. (1911–1978)

Hubert Horatio Humphrey was the latest in a line of distinguished United States senators whose influence has exceeded that of many Presidents. He served as senator from Minnesota from 1948 to 1964 and from 1972 to his death, during which time he wrote over forty acts of Congress and coauthored considerably more than twice that many on subjects as diverse as children's nutrition, aid to education, nuclear disarmament, full employment, solar energy, and medicare. He led the anticommunist liberal wing of the Democratic party and cofounded its political organ, Americans for Democratic Action, whose constitution barred membership by communists and Fascists. In 1954 Humphrey wrote the communist control act; his original version would have made it a crime to be a member of the party. He never spoke against Senator Joseph R. McCarthy in the Senate. Otherwise he was the quintessential liberal, involved in nearly every achievement and failure of American liberalism from the close of world war ii until his untimely death. He believed that government existed to serve people, the more service to the larger number of people the better.

Humphrey's finest hours were devoted to civil rights. In 1948 he became a national celebrity by leading a successful fight for a strong civil rights plank in his party's platform, provoking a walkout of intransigent Southerners who formed the Dixiecrat party. In 1964, when he was party whip, he was floor manager of the battle for the passage of the civil rights act of that year.

As thirty-eighth vice-president, Humphrey was the most unflaggingly active of any in our history. When he was his party's nominee for President in 1968, he lost the election by half a million votes because his strong support of the vietnam war cost him the allegiance of antiwar voters, and because his civil rights record cost him southern votes that went to a third party candidate.

The pell-mell, all-directions-at-once character of the Great Society mirrored Humphrey as well as President lyndon b. johnson. Humphrey was not only an effective legislator. He was probably the gabbiest, most exuberant, open-hearted person in American public life.

Leonard W. Levy


Solberg, Carl 1984 Hubert Humphrey: A Biography. New York: Norton.

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Humphrey, Hubert H. (1911–1978)

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