McGovern remembered as politician, humanitarian, man of conscience
October 26th, 2012
05:17 PM ET
10 years ago

McGovern remembered as politician, humanitarian, man of conscience

(CNN) - George McGovern accomplished more than most could ever dream in his lifetime: as a war hero, a congressman and presidential nominee.

But he was so much more than all that, his family and friends said at the late senator's memorial service Friday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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Thousands turned out for the service at the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science, reflecting solemnly and at other times laughing at tales from McGovern's remarkable life while lauding his inherent decency, compassion and conviction. The staunch liberal died Sunday at age 90.

"George McGovern was a great man," said U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat who wasn't related to George but came to know him well over several decades. "But more importantly, he was a very, very good one."

Several family members spoke at Friday's service, which came a day after a public viewing at the First United Methodist Church in Sioux Falls and comes before McGovern's eventual burial in Washington at the Rock Creek Cemetery. Some of them read from the Bible, with son-in-law Jim Rowen recounting stories from McGovern's childhood and the politician's lifelong love affair with baseball's St. Louis Cardinals.

Numerous politicians, past and present, also addressed the crowd. They recalled McGovern's years as a distinguished fighter pilot during World War II, a history professor at his alma mater of Dakota Wesleyan University, a Democratic leader in his home state and on Capitol Hill, and his run as his party's presidential nominee in 1972 – losing every state except for Massachusetts to Richard Nixon.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was among those who said they believed the United States would have been better off had McGovern won that election. Jim McGovern joked that perhaps his close friend was a winner after all, now that he has joined his late wife and two late children in heaven.

"Deep down, I know George McGovern is in a better place. He's with Eleanor, he's with Terry and Steve. Who knows, he may even be president," the congressman said, eliciting a hearty laugh from the crowd.

His legacy, several speakers said, was not necessarily his political accomplishments but his decades-long fight against hunger and poverty and for world peace. McGovern was a decent, generous, kind man who never hesitated to stand up for what he thought was right, even if it wasn't popular or convenient, they said.

"Nations, even great nations, sometimes require a voice of conscience," said former Sen. Gary Hart, D-Colorado. "George McGovern was the voice of conscience for our nation in our time."

Filed under: 2012 • George McGovern • Montana
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. je

    "... demagoguery {based on} populist shibboleths is the greatest threat to our democracy" Alexander Hamilton

    October 26, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  2. California Gary

    He deserved better than what happened to him in the 1972 election. He was right about Viet Nam – we needed to get out, and soon did. He was also right that the Watergate break in was a big deal – we paid no attention to it until after the election. And I still marvel at how he was painted as soft on defense and military issues – the man was a bomber pilot in WW II for gosh sakes. We turned from him in 1972, when we should have turned to him. But he still led a remarkable in peace Mr. McGovern. You had a life well lived.

    October 26, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  3. tab

    McGovern's life is a role model to follow for all those with a conscience who envision this society as a kinder, gentler, more giving place. You could not pick a better man to learn from by example.

    October 26, 2012 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  4. DENNA

    God rest his soul. He lived his convictions, unashamed of his beliefs.

    October 26, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  5. Larry Linn

    George McGovern was also a war hero. He flew a B-24 pilot, and flew over 34 missions in WWll, and received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

    October 26, 2012 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  6. Larry L

    George McGovern was a very good man. Sadly, he got beat in the race for the Presidency by Richard Nixon, a dishonest man not fit to wipe his boots. Too often voters compromise their principles and vote for a person of questionable honor and character. Romney flip-flops on every issue, constantly gets caught in lies by the fact checkers, shows disdain for 47% of Americans, and still hides his tax returns. Romney was a draft dodger but now talks like a "Warrior". He is a man of "Richard Nixon" character.

    October 26, 2012 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  7. dharmabeachbum

    I'm a conservative, but I always liked George McGovern. He stood for the people, and he was a very, very good man. The US will miss him.

    October 27, 2012 08:57 am at 8:57 am |