Hubert Humphrey dedicated most of his adult life to public service. He served as mayor of Minneapolis, U.S. Senator from Minnesota and as Vice-President under Lyndon Johnson. He first gained National recognition at the 1948 Democratic National Convention by successfully pushing through the adoption of a Civil Rights plank for the Party platform. This angered many Southern delegates and led by Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, some of them walked out of the convention in protest. Thurmond then ran for President by forming a new party, the Dixiecrat Party. However, despite this division within the Democratic Party, President Truman still won the 1948 election and so there was no real negative consequences to Humphrey's Civil Rights leadership at the convention.
Humphrey's first run for the Democratic Presidential nomination came in 1960 when he ran against Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy in the primaries. Despite being from neighboring Minnesota, Kennedy won the important Wisconsin primary. However, Humphrey did carry the three more rural Congressional districts of Western Wisconsin and one of the network commentators speculated that this was because Kennedy's Catholicism might not have gone over well there. Such speculation on live television reportedly caused Senator Kennedy to phone the network and lodge a protest. The West Virginia primary turned out to be the key to the nomination. Senator Kennedy was able to get most of the union leaders there to support him and it is believed that this gave him the victory. The West Virginia loss, coupled with Wisconsin, caused Humphrey to withdraw from the race for the nomination.
President Johnson decided not to run for re-election in 1968 and so Vice-President Humphrey announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination. After a very turbulent campaign fight against Senators Eugene Mccarthy, Robert Kennedy and George McGovern, Humphrey finally prevailed. However, it must be noted that Senator Kennedy was assasinated the night that he beat Senator McCarthy in the California Primary. Many political experts believe that if he had not been killed, Senator Kennedy would have won the nomination. Unfortunately for Humphrey, the Vietnam War caused much division within the country at the time, especially among the young. The protests in the streets of Chicago turned violent and the whole thing was seen live on National television. Senator Ribicoff of Connecticut made a famous speech where he referred to "Gestapo-like tactics in the streets of Chicago". The convention ended with Humphrey's nomination, but the party was divided. There was a significant minority who tried to push for a peace plank to be put into the party's platform, but they failed. Whether or not the violence outside of the 1968 Democratic Comvention cost Humphrey the Presidency is speculative, but many experts reached said conclusion. He did make a very strong comeback in the final days of the campaign and only fell short in the Popular Vote by about 500,000 votes. However, the Electoral College vote was not nearly as close. Some experts blamed his loss on Alabama Governor George Wallace bolting from the party and running as an Independent. Wallace did carry five Southern states and came close in several others. However, research later indicated that a significant majority of Wallace's votes would have gone to Nixon if Wallace had not run. Hence, it would seem that Governor Wallace did not cost Humphrey the Presidency.
Humphrey made his last run for President in 1972 and he ran a strong race against South Dakota Senator George McGovern for the Democratic Presidential nomination. However, the big California Primary was a winner-take-all primary and McGovern won it, though only by a 5% margin, and this seemed to give him a sufficient number of delegates to win the nomination. Humphrey and his forces tried to convince the convention that the winner-take-all process was unfair and that the delegates at the convention should overturn the results and award the CA delegates on a proportionate basis. However, McGovern's forces carried the day by explaining that overturning the CA results would be in effect changing the rules after the game had been played. McGovern won the nomination and thus ended Humphrey's last chance to become President. Rumor has it that McGovern offered the Vice-Presidential slot to Humphrey, but that he declined.
Sadly, later in the 1970's, Hunphrey came down with bladder cancer and despite a valiant fight against it, he died on January 13, 1978. He was survived by his wife Muriel. She later remarried in 1981 to Max Brown and died at age 86 in 1998. Muriel was laid to rest next to Hubert Humphrey in Minneapolis' Lakewood Cemetery.