Thomas Eagleton: Wikis

  
  

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Thomas Eagleton


In office
December 27, 1968 – January 5, 1987
Preceded by Edward V. Long
Succeeded by Kit Bond

Born September 4, 1929(1929-09-04)
St. Louis, Missouri
Died March 4, 2007 (aged 77)
St. Louis, Missouri
Nationality  United States
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Barbara Smith Eagleton
Children Terence Eagleton
Christin Eagleton
Alma mater Harvard Law School
Amherst College
Religion Roman Catholic

Thomas Francis Eagleton (September 4, 1929 – March 4, 2007) was a United States Senator from Missouri, serving from 1968–1987. He is best remembered for briefly being a Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, sharing the ticket under George McGovern in 1972. He was an adjunct professor of Public Affairs at Washington University for over a decade.

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Early life and political career

Eagleton was the son of another St. Louis politician, Mark D. Eagleton (who had run for mayor), and Zitta Swanson.

He graduated from St. Louis Country Day School, enlisted in the U.S. Navy for two years, and graduated from Amherst College in 1950, where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Sigma Chapter). He then attended Harvard Law School.

Eagleton married Barbara Ann Smith of St. Louis on January 26, 1956. A son, Terence, was born in 1959, and a daughter, Christin, was born in 1963.

He was elected circuit attorney of the City of St. Louis in 1956. During his tenure, he appeared on the TV show "What's My Line," episode #355 as "District Attorney of St. Louis" (He stumped the panel).[1] He was elected Missouri Attorney General in 1960, at the age of 31 (the youngest in the state's history). He was elected Missouri Lieutenant Governor in 1964, and won a U.S. Senate seat in 1968 unseating incumbent Edward V. Long in the Democratic primary and narrowly defeating Congressman Thomas B. Curtis in the general election.

Between 1960 and 1966, Eagleton checked himself into the hospital three times for physical and nervous exhaustion, receiving electroconvulsive therapy twice.[2]

The hospitalizations, which were not widely publicized, had little effect on his political aspirations, although the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was to note, in 1972, immediately after his vice presidential nomination:

He had been troubled with gastric disturbances, which led to occasional hospitalizations. The stomach troubles have contributed to rumors that he had a drinking problem.[2]

1972 presidential campaign

Amnesty, abortion, and acid

On April 25, 1972, George McGovern won the Massachusetts primary and journalist Bob Novak phoned Democratic politicians around the country, who agreed with his assessment that blue-collar workers voting for McGovern did not understand what he really stood for.[3] On April 27, 1972 Novak reported in a column that an unnamed Democratic senator had talked to him about McGovern[4] (thirty-five years later, he would announce that the senator in question was Eagleton). Novak quoted the senator as saying "The people don’t know McGovern is for amnesty, abortion and legalization of pot."[4] Once middle America — Catholic middle America, in particular — finds this out, he’s dead."[4] The label stuck and McGovern became known as the candidate of "amnesty, abortion and acid."[3][5]

Novak was accused of manufacturing the quote.[4] Novak has stated that, to rebut the criticism, he took Eagleton to lunch after the campaign and asked whether he could identify him as the source,[4] but the senator said he would not allow his identity to be revealed.[4] "Oh, he had to run for re-election", said Novak.[3] "The McGovernites would kill him if they knew he had said that," Novak added.[3]

On July 15, 2007, Novak disclosed on Meet the Press that the unnamed senator was Thomas Eagleton.[3] Political analyst Bob Shrum says that Eagleton would never have been selected as McGovern's running mate if it had been known at the time that Eagleton was the source of the quote.[3] "Boy, do I wish he would have let you publish his name. Then he never would have been picked as vice president," said Shrum.[3] "Because the two things, the two things that happened to George McGovern—two of the things that happened to him—were the label you put on him, number one, and number two, the Eagleton disaster. We had a messy convention, but he could have, I think in the end, carried eight or 10 states, remained politically viable. And Eagleton was one of the great train wrecks of all time."[3]

Selection as vice presidential candidate

In 1972, Richard Nixon appeared unbeatable. When Senator George McGovern won the Democratic nomination for President, virtually all of the high-profile Democrats, including Ted Kennedy, Walter Mondale, Hubert Humphrey, Edmund Muskie[6] and Birch Bayh turned down offers to run on the ticket. McGovern had been convinced that Kennedy would join the ticket. Kennedy refused and also vetoed McGovern's suggested choice of Boston Mayor Kevin White.

McGovern asked Senator Gaylord Nelson to be his running mate. Nelson declined but suggested (as had most of the others) Tom Eagleton, whom McGovern ultimately chose, with only a minimal background check. Eagleton made no mention of his earlier hospitalizations, and in fact decided with his wife to keep them secret from McGovern while he was flying to his first meeting with the Presidential nominee.

Eagleton had promised to bring his medical records for McGovern's review, but he did not. He initially concealed the fact that he was on Thorazine, a powerful anti-psychotic and when he did disclose his use of the medication he noted that it couldn't be discovered by the press because it was issued under his wife's name. McGovern spoke to two of Eagleton's doctors, both of whom expressed grave concerns about Eagleton's mental health. Ultimately, a portion of Eagleton's medical records was leaked to McGovern, at which point McGovern saw a reference to "manic depression" and "suicidal tendencies."

McGovern had failed to act quickly when he learned of the mental health problems (though not their severe extent) because his own daughter was seriously depressed and he wondered what effect dumping Eagleton because of his depression would have on her. Ultimately, Eagleton threatened that if McGovern tried to force him off the ticket, he would fight the move. Eagleton conditioned his resignation on McGovern's releasing a statement, written by Eagleton, that Eagleton's health was fine and that McGovern had no issues with Eagleton's mental status.

Replacement on the ticket

McGovern said he would back Eagleton “1000%”, but on August 1, Eagleton withdrew at McGovern's request and, after a new search by McGovern, was replaced by Kennedy in-law Sargent Shriver.

A Time magazine poll taken at the time found that 77 percent of the respondents said "Eagleton's medical record would not affect their vote." Nonetheless, the press made frequent references to his 'shock therapy', and McGovern feared that this would detract from his campaign platform.[7]

McGovern's handling of the controversy was an opening for the Republican campaign to raise serious questions about his judgment. In the general election, the Democratic ticket won only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

Re-election to Senate

Missouri returned Eagleton to the Senate in 1974, winning 60% against Thomas B. Curtis, who had been his opponent in 1968. In 1980, he was re-elected again by a closer-than-expected margin over St. Louis County Executive Gene McNary.

During the 1980 election, Eagleton's niece Elizabeth Eagleton Weigand and lawyer Stephen Poludniak were arrested for blackmail after they threatened to spread false accusations that Eagleton was bisexual. Eagleton told reporters that the extorted money was to be turned over to the Church of Scientology. Poludniak and Weigand appealed the conviction all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that they could not have gotten a fair trial because of "the massive publicity surrounding this case, coupled with the pre-existing sentiment in favor of Sen. Eagleton." The Court turned down the appeal.

Eagleton did not seek a fourth term in 1986.

Senate career

In the Senate, Eagleton was active in matters dealing with foreign relations, intelligence, defense, education, health care, and the environment. He was instrumental to the Senate's passage of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, and sponsored the amendment that halted the bombing in Cambodia and effectively ended American involvement in the Vietnam War.

Eagleton was one of the authors of The Hatch-Eagleton Amendment, introduced in the Senate on 26 January 1983 with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R), which stated that "A right to abortion is not secured by this Constitution".

Post-Senate career

In 1987, Eagleton returned to St. Louis as an attorney, political commentator, and professor at Washington University in St. Louis, where he (up until his death) held the title of Professor of Public Affairs. Throughout his career at Washington University, Eagleton taught courses with former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors Murray Weidenbaum on Economics and History Professor Henry Berger on the Vietnam War. Eagleton would often choose private Research Assistants from his students. In 2005 and 2006, he co-taught a seminar on the Presidency and the Constitution with Joel Goldstein at Saint Louis University School of Law. He was a partner in the St. Louis law firm of Thompson Coburn and was a chief negotiator for a coalition of local business interests that lured the Los Angeles Rams football team to St. Louis. He was the author of three books on politics, and the 8th Circuit Federal Courthouse in St. Louis, dedicated on September 11, 2000, is named after him.

He has been honored with a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame located in the University City Loop.

In January 2001, he joined other Missouri Democrats to oppose the nomination of former Missouri governor John Ashcroft for United States Attorney General. Eagleton was quoted in the official Judiciary Committee record: "John Danforth would have been my first choice. John Ashcroft would have been my last choice."[8]

Eagleton also strongly supported Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill in 2006; McCaskill won, defeating incumbent Jim Talent.

Eagleton led a group, "Catholics for Amendment 2", composed of prominent Catholics, that challenged church leaders' opposition to stem cell research and to the proposed state constitutional amendment (#2) that would have protected such research in Missouri. The group e-mailed a letter to fellow Catholics explaining reasons for supporting Amendment 2.[9] The amendment ensures that any federally approved stem cell research and treatments would be available in Missouri. "[T]he letter from Catholics for Amendment 2 said the group felt a moral obligation to respond to what it called misinformation, scare tactics and distortions being spread by opponents of the initiative, including the church."[9]

Death

Thomas Eagleton died in St. Louis on Sunday, March 4, 2007, of heart and respiratory complications. Eagleton donated his body to medical science at Washington University.[10] He wrote a farewell letter to his family and friends months before he died, citing that his dying wishes were for people to "go forth in love and peace — be kind to dogs — and vote Democratic."[11]

Notes

See also

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
John M. Dalton
Attorney General of Missouri
1961–1965
Succeeded by
Norman H. Anderson
Political offices
Preceded by
Hilary A. Bush
Lieutenant Governor of Missouri
1965–1968
Succeeded by
William S. Morris
United States Senate
Preceded by
Edward V. Long
United States Senator (Class 3) from Missouri
1968 — 1987
Served alongside: Stuart Symington, John Danforth
Succeeded by
Kit Bond
Party political offices
Preceded by
Edmund Muskie
Democratic Party Vice Presidential candidate
1972 (withdrew)
Succeeded by
Sargent Shriver







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