Eugene McCarthy Biography


Birthday: March 29, 1916 (Aries)

Born In: Watkins

Eugene McCarthy was an American politician who served as the United States Senator from Minnesota for several years. He is best remembered for being the first candidate to challenge incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in the 1968 presidential election which eventually led to Johnson's decision to withdraw from the race. Even though his presidential run was unsuccessful, his entry into the 1968 presidential race played an important role in shaping American politics. Born in Watkins, Minnesota, to a cattle buyer, McCarthy did not have any political links within his family. He embarked on a career as a school teacher while still studying at the university and ultimately became a professor of economics and education at St. John's. He joined politics as a young man and won election to the U.S. Senate after a few years. As a senator, he was strongly opposed to the Vietnam War, and was thus recruited by Democratic politician Allard K. Lowenstein and his anti-Vietnam War Dump Johnson movement to run against incumbent President Lyndon Johnson. McCarthy took a courageous decision in challenging the powerful Johnson and this brave step of his led Johnson to unexpectedly withdraw from the race. However in spite of all his popularity and numerous bids, McCarthy was unable to achieve his dream of becoming the president.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Eugene J McCarthy

Died At Age: 89


Spouse/Ex-: Abigail McCarthy

children: Christopher Joseph McCarthy, Eleanor McCarthy Howell, Margaret Alice McCarthy Brown, Mary Abigail McCarthy, Mary Beth McCarthy, Michael Benet McCarthy

Political Leaders American Men

political ideology: Political party - Democratic-Farmer-Labor

Died on: December 10, 2005

place of death: Washington, D.C.

Diseases & Disabilities: Parkinson's Disease

More Facts

education: University of Minnesota, College of Saint Benedict, Saint John's Preparatory School

Childhood & Early Life
Eugene Joseph McCarthy was born on March 29, 1916, in Watkins, Minnesota, to Anna and Michael J. McCarthy as one of their four children. His father was a postmaster and cattle buyer.
He attended St. Anthony's Catholic School in Watkins and studied in Saint John's Preparatory School (Collegeville, Minnesota) from where he graduated in 1931.
Then he furthered his education from Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota and the University of Minnesota. He taught in various public schools while working on a master’s degree at the University of Minnesota which he earned in 1939.
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He was appointed as a professor of economics and education at St. John's in 1940 and held this position until 1943. Then he went on to serve as a civilian technical assistant in the Military Intelligence Division of the War Department in 1944.
After the war he returned to teaching and took up a position as an instructor in sociology and economics at the College of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota in 1946, eventually becoming chairman of the sociology department.
During this time he also became active in politics and ran successfully for a membership in the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in 1948 and won the election to the United States House of Representatives.
In 1958, he won election to the U.S. Senate, and served as a member of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, among other roles. He was one of the original co-sponsors of the Immigration Act of 1965, something he later regretted. As the senator he also became a member of the Board of Advisors of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
As a politician, he was strongly opposed to the Vietnam War which had been going on since 1955, and by 1967 McCarthy had become an outspoken critic of the war. Several others were also opposed to the war and had taken to marching in Washington in protest. The anti-war stance was negatively impacting President Lyndon Johnson's popular and political support.
Impressed by McCarthy’s emergence as a leader of the anti-war movement, Allard K. Lowenstein and his anti-Vietnam War Dump Johnson movement recruited McCarthy to run against incumbent President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. McCarthy received tremendous support from the other anti-war crusaders and the common public.
Eugene McCarthy focused his campaign on the anti-war stance and stated that American people were against the war for military, economic, diplomatic and moral reasons. He became an immensely popular candidate in running for the Democratic ticket and captured 42 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary in March 1968.
The results of this vote helped the anti-war movement, and President Johnson soon announced that he would not be seeking re-election and withdrew from the race. But even though McCarthy was successful in forcing President Johnson out of office, he failed to win the nomination which ultimately went to Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
After the 1968 election, McCarthy returned to the Senate but did not run for re-election in 1970. A couple of years later, he again ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1972 but did not fare well and soon dropped out. He also left the Democratic Party the same year.
He once again ran for the President in the 1976 election as an independent candidate. During his campaign he supported nuclear disarmament, promised to create full employment and attacked the Internal Revenue Service. However, he once again failed to achieve his dream of becoming the president. Still determined, he made two more unsuccessful attempts in 1988 and 1992.
In addition to being a politician, he was also a writer and a poet with numerous published works including ‘Ground Fog and Night’ (1979), ‘Complexities and Contraries: Essays of Mild Discontent’ (1982), ‘Up ’Til Now’ (1987), ‘1968: War and Democracy’ (2000), and ‘Parting Shots from My Brittle Brow’ (2004).
Major Work
Eugene McCarthy is best remembered for being a leader of the anti-war movement in America who dared to challenge incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in 1968. His stance against the Vietnam War made him very popular and played a major role in forcing Johnson out of the presidential race.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1944, Eugene McCarthy married Abigail Quigley. The couple had five children. He left his wife in 1969 after 24 years of marriage, but the two never divorced. It was rumored that he had an affair with prominent columnist and journalist Shana Alexander. However author Dominic Sandbrook who wrote McCarthy’s biography stated that McCarthy had a long-term relationship with CBS News correspondent Marya McLaughlin.
He suffered from Parkinson's disease during his later years and died at the age of 89 on December 10, 2005.
St. John's University honored McCarthy by establishing the Eugene McCarthy Distinguished Public Service Award in his name in 2009.

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