Born and raised in South Dakota, Hubert H. Humphrey graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1939. The following year he received an M.A. from Louisiana State University and returned to Minneapolis when he secured a job with the Works Progress Administration. There he was quickly drawn into local politics, was elected mayor in 1945, and earned a reputation as an ardent supporter of civil rights. In 1948, he delivered a short but extremely effective speech at the Democratic National Convention exhorting the Democratic party and all Americans to commit themselves to the principle of racial justice. That same year, Humphrey was elected to the Senate with strong support from both farmers and labor, becoming a crucial bridge between the Democratic Party's conservative and liberal factions. Humphrey, a pragmatic liberal and avid cold warrior, managed to balance a host of different constituencies. As senator, he represented the farm interests of the Midwest as well as the interests of labor unions. He supported national and international health issues by initiating the Food for Peace program. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he initiated policy to allow nations to buy U.S. farm surplus products (enacted as Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954) and chaired a subcommittee to study disarmament. In 1960, after unsuccessfully running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Humphrey was elected to the Senate's second highest leadership position, Majority Whip. Four years later when Lyndon B. Johnson selected Humphrey to be his running mate on the Democratic ticket, his support for the Vietnam War eroded much of the support he had cultivated on the left. Nonetheless, Humphrey decided to run for president in 1968 and, winning back most of his liberal base, he nearly defeated Richard Nixon for the presidency in a painfully close election. Humphrey returned to the Senate in 1970 and in 1976 before succumbing to cancer in 1978.
Sources: Carl Solberg, Hubert Humphrey: A Biography (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1984), pp. 158-195, passim; American Council of Learned Societies, Dictionary of American Biography, 3rd ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1980).
Recommended citation: Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and the Election of 1960: A Project of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, ed. by Allida Black, June Hopkins, John Sears, Christopher Alhambra, Mary Jo Binker, Christopher Brick, John S. Emrich, Eugenia Gusev, Kristen E. Gwinn, and Bryan D. Peery (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2003). Electronic version based on unpublished letters. .
For more information, visit The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers home page at https://erpapers.columbian.gwu.edu/.
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