Former US senator George McGovern, whose anti-Vietnam War stance in his 1972 US presidential race against former US president Richard Nixon led to one of the worst electoral defeats in US history, died yesterday at the age of 90, his family said.
McGovern had been admitted to a South Dakota hospice suffering from a combination of medical conditions that had worsened in recent months.
The McGovern family said he died yesterday morning at Dougherty Hospice House in Sioux Falls, surrounded by family and friends.
McGovern had been hospitalized several times in the past year after complaining of fatigue after a book tour, a fall before a scheduled television appearance and dizzy spells.
“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,” a statement released by his family said.
“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, who served in the US Senate for South Dakota from 1963 to 1981, challenged Nixon in 1972 on a platform opposing the war in Vietnam.
He suffered one of the most lopsided defeats in US history, taking only 37.5 percent of the vote and carrying only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.
Later, as Nixon’s presidency unraveled in the Watergate scandal, bumper stickers saying, “Don’t blame me, I’m from Massachusetts,” and buttons saying “Don’t blame me, I voted for McGovern,” began to appear.
However, McGovern’s legacy stretches well beyond his terms in US Congress and presidential bids, to social issues, including world hunger and AIDS, said Donald Simmons, director of the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota.
“Outside of the US, he is known for his real humanitarian efforts and I think that will be one of his greatest long-term legacies,” Simmons said on Wednesday.