Eugene Joseph McCarthy


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(b. Watkins, Minnesota, 29 Mar. 1916; d. Washington DC, 10 Dec. 2005)

US; member of the US House of Representatives 1949–59, US Senator 1959–70 The son of a cattleman, McCarthy was educated in state schools, graduated BA from St John's University, Collegeville, 1935, and MA from the University of Minnesota, 1939. After three years as a secondary schoolteacher, 1936–9, he returned to St John's as a professor of economics and education. In 1944 he became a civilian technical assistant in the Military Intelligence Division of the War Department, where he remained until 1946. He returned to an academic career as an instructor in sociology and economics at St Thomas's College St Paul.

McCarthy, a Democrat, embarked on a political career in 1949 when he was elected US representative for Minnesota's 4th District. He was re-elected to the next four consecutive congresses and then, in 1958, successfully ran for the Senate, and was re-elected in 1964.

In 1968 McCarthy sought nomination as his party's presidential candidate. His support was shaky in the early stages of the primaries, but after the assassination of rival candidate Robert Kennedy, he relaunched his campaign. In the growing storm of protest against the Vietnam War, McCarthy, as a liberal and anti-war candidate, attracted the support of the young, the ethnic minorities, and women. At the nominating convention in Chicago, however, party bosses swung the vote in favour of the more orthodox candidate, Vice-President Hubert Humphrey. This sparked a riot among McCarthy's supporters who had been excluded from the convention. This prompted the Democrats to revise the party's rules for choosing delegates to future conventions.

McCarthy retired from the Senate in 1970. He made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972; he ran as an independent (having left the Democratic Party) in 1976 and, in some states, in 1988; and then unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992. After leaving the Senate, he returned to a career in teaching and writing. He is the author of numerous books and articles on politics, including: Frontiers in American Democracy (1960); Dictionary of American Politics (1962); The Year of the People (1969).

Subjects: Politics.

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