Humphrey, Hubert H. (1911 - 1978)

Hubert H. Humphrey

Hubert Humphrey 1965 Wikimedia Commons

Hubert H. Humphrey, a towering figure in American politics during the mid-20th century, left an indelible mark on the nation's history. He was the "Happy Warrior" for his upbeat demeanor and unwavering commitment to civil rights and progressive ideals. Humphrey was pivotal in shaping domestic policies and advocating for social justice.

Born on May 27, 1911, in Wallace, South Dakota, Hubert Horatio Humphrey was raised in a modest family. After completing high school, he attended the University of Minnesota, where he developed a passion for political activism and social reform. Humphrey's early experiences, including the struggles of his father's pharmacy during the Great Depression, instilled in him a sense of empathy and a commitment to fight for the less fortunate.

Humphrey's political career began in the 1940s when he served as mayor of Minneapolis. In 1948, he made a significant impact on the national stage at the Democratic National Convention, delivering a passionate speech advocating for civil rights and supporting the inclusion of a strong civil rights plank in the party's platform. Despite facing opposition, Humphrey's powerful oration laid the groundwork for the Democratic Party's future commitment to civil rights.

In 1948, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he continued championing civil rights legislation. His tireless efforts to secure equal rights for all Americans garnered him the respect and admiration of civil rights leaders and activists.

Humphrey's political stature grew further when he was chosen as Vice President by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. During his tenure, he advocated for progressive policies. He was key in advancing President Johnson's Great Society programs, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the War on Poverty initiatives. However, Humphrey's presidential ambitions were overshadowed by the escalating Vietnam War, which deeply divided the nation and complicated his political trajectory.

Although Humphrey lost the presidential election to Richard Nixon in 1968, his contributions to American politics and civil rights remain significant. He returned to the U.S. Senate in 1971, advocating for progressive policies until his death on January 13, 1978.

In 2012, a 7-foot tall bronze statue of Humphrey was unveiled before one-thousand spectators in attendance on the Minnesota State Capitol grounds in Saint Paul. The statue, located near the intersection of John Ireland and the Rev. Dr., was designed by the Chicago-based husband-and-wife sculptor team of Anna Koh-Varilla and Jeffrey Varilla. It depicts Humphrey with his arms outstretched and a smile on his face. It's meant to honor the life and legacy of the man known as "The Happy Warrior" for his positive attitude and tireless work ethic.

The memorial also includes a bench and engraved stone panels that feature quotes from Humphrey's speeches and writings. The memorial was dedicated on August 4, 2012, in a ceremony attended by former President Bill Clinton, national and local politicians (current and retired), family members, and spectators. The ceremony included speeches by Clinton, Governor Mark Dayton, and other political leaders.

Hubert Humphrey's legacy as the "Happy Warrior," a civil rights champion, and a progressive leader endures today. Through tireless advocacy, he played a pivotal role in advancing equality and social justice in America. Humphrey's commitment to fighting for the marginalized and his dedication to public service inspires those striving to create a more equitable society, even after his passing.

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