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 McGovernin 1972. He was an adjunct professor of Public Affairs at Washington University for over a decade.
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 Collegein 1950, where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilonfraternity. 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 1960.
He was elected circuit attorney of the City of St. Louis in 1956, and Missouri
Attorney Generalin 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.
Between 1960 and 1966, Eagleton checked himself into the hospital three times for physical and nervous exhaustion, receiving
electroconvulsive therapytwice. [http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/special/pd125.nsf/0/6C7926B9C0966F6486256E04006BEC5F?OpenDocument St. Louis Post-Dispatch] ]
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.
1972 presidential campaign
election as vice presidential candidate
Richard Nixonappeared unbeatable. When Senator George McGovernwon the Democratic nomination for President, virtually all of the high-profile Democrats, including Ted Kennedy, Walter Mondale, Hubert Humphrey, Edmund Muskie[ [http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/29/opinion/29mcgovern.html "George McGovern, Help Wanted"] , The New York Times, August 29, 2008] and Birch Bayhturned 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.
Early in the process, McGovern wanted to ask
Sargent Shriver, but could not reach him because he was on a flight to Moscow. McGovern finally asked Senator Gaylord Nelson who declined but suggested (as had most of the others) Tom Eagleton, who 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 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
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. [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/26/MN9NVQGO2.DTL]
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.
Amnesty, abortion and acid
On April 25, 1972, George McGovern won the Massachusetts primary and journalist
Bob Novakphoned 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. On April 27, 1972 Novak reported in a column that an unnamed Democratic senator had talked to him about McGovern. "The people don’t know McGovern is for amnesty, abortion and legalization of pot," the senator said. Once middle America — Catholic middle America, in particular — finds this out, he’s dead." The label stuck and McGovern became known as the candidate of "amnesty, abortion and acid." [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19694666/page/7/ Meet the Press Transcript for July 15, 2007. "Interview with Robert Novak] ] [http://www.columbiatribune.com/2007/Aug/20070819Feat004.asp Columbia Tribune. "A slice of history: Biographers of the late U.S. Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Missouri will find some vivid anecdotes when they comb through his large collection of journals, letters and transcripts housed in Columbia" by Terry Ganey. August 19, 2007] ]
Novak was accused of manufacturing the quote. To rebut the criticism, Novak took Eagleton to lunch after the campaign and asked whether he could identify him as the source. The senator said he would not allow his identity to be revealed.Kansas City Star. "With another disclosure, Novak bedevils the dead" by Steve Kraske. July 28, 2007. The [http://www.kansascity.com/news/columnists/steve_kraske/story/209499.html original story] is a dead link. An archival copy is [http://peacecorpsonline.org/messages/messages/2629/2204062.html available here] .] "Oh, he had to run for re-election", said Novak. "The McGovernites would kill him if they knew he had said that," Novak added.
On July 15, 2007, Novak disclosed on "
Meet the Press" that the unnamed senator was Thomas Eagleton. Political analyst Bob Shrumsays 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. "Boy, do I wish he would have let you publish his name. Then he never would have been picked as vice president," said Shrum. "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."
Re-election to Senate
During the 1980 election, Eagleton's niece
Elizabeth Eagleton Weigandand lawyer Stephen Poludniakwere arrested for blackmailafter 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.
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 Actand the Clean Water Act, and sponsored the amendment that halted the bombing in Cambodiaand effectively ended American involvement in the Vietnam War.
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. In 2006, he taught a seminar on the Presidency and the Constitution 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 is named after him.
He has been honored with a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
In January 2001, he joined other Missouri Democrats to oppose the nomination of former Missouri governor
John Ashcroftfor United States Attorney General. Eagleton was quoted in the official Judiciary Committee record: " John Danforthwould have been my first choice. John Ashcroft would have been my last choice." [ [http://judiciary.senate.gov/oldsite/te011601hw.htm Ronnie white-Record on civil rights] ]
Another recent appearance was with Democratic Senate candidate
Claire McCaskillin the 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.http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/11/05/stemcells.catholics.ap/index.html] 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."
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. [ [http://record.wustl.edu/news/page/normal/8981.html Washington University Record] ] 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." [ [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17559686/ Eagleton's last wish: 'Be kind to dogs' - Politics - MSNBC.com] ]
*Clinton, Bill (2005). "My Life". Vintage. ISBN 1-4000-3003-X.
* [http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19720724,00.html "Time" magazine] — July 24, 1972 cover article
* [http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19720807,00.html "Time" magazine] — August 7, 1972 cover article on withdrawal
* [http://www.historychannel.com/broadband/clipview/index.jsp?id=0918 History Channel on Eagleton's withdrawal speech]
*Whmc stl photodb|keywords=Eagleton|title=Thomas Eagleton
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