Eugene McCarthy is best known as the man who dared to challenge President Lyndon Baines Johnson for the 1968 Democractic Party nomination on the basis that Johnson's Vietnam policies were morally wrong.
McCarthy was born in Watkins, Minnesota. A religous man, he graduated from St. John's University in 1935, before studying at a Catholic monastery, and then receiving his master's dergee from the University of Minnesota in 1938. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1948 and worked as a college professor prior. He was nominated to the Senate after 10 years in the House, and remained there until 1971.
McCarthy's 1968 campaign was fairly independent of the party, as much of his support was garnered from volunteers who went door-to-door campaigning for him. Many were antiwar protestors, following used the slogan "Clean for Gene," as they cut their long hair and wore their nicest apparel to help increase support. Their efforts paid off when McCarthy won the New Hampshire primary, however, after Robert Kennedy's late entry into the race, things got rather ugly. Kennedy and McCarthy supporters were frequently at odds with one another, one of my high school teacher recollects his experiences as a Kennedy supporter when both sides were waving fists at each other while campaigning in a mall.
Conditions were only made worse when Kennedy was assasinated. Without Kennedy, the Democratic Party was in disarray, the 1968 Chicago Convention a disaster, and many expected President Johnson's pick, then Vice President Hubert Humphrey to win the nomination as did happen.
Although McCarthy failed to gain the nomination, and left the Senate after his term ended, his legacy was that he gave a stronger backing to the antiwar cause, and was a factor in LBJ's decision not to run for re-election.
Ed. note: Eugene McCarthy died in Georgetown on Saturday, December 10, 2005.
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