McCarthy, Eugene Joseph

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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Eugene Joseph McCarthy served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1949 to 1959 and as a U.S. senator from 1959 to 1971. He was a liberal Democrat who served in the shadow of his fellow Minnesota senator, HUBERT H. HUMPHREY. His opposition to the VIETNAM WAR led to his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968. Although ultimately unsuccessful, his candidacy galvanized the anti-war constituency and helped persuade President LYNDON B. JOHNSON not to seek re-election.

McCarthy was born March 29, 1916, in Watkins, Minnesota, the son of a livestock buyer. He graduated from Saint John's University, in Collegeville, Minnesota, in 1935, and worked on a master's degree at the University of Minnesota during the late 1930s while he was a high-school teacher in Mandan, North Dakota. McCarthy returned to Saint John's in 1940 to teach economics. After deciding not to join the priesthood, he left Saint John's in 1943 and served in the War Department's Intelligence Division until the close of WORLD WAR II in 1945.

After the war, McCarthy joined the faculty at the College of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, where he taught sociology. In 1948, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, beginning a 22-year political career in Washington, D.C. During the 1950s McCarthy worked on labor and agricultural issues and maintained a liberal Democratic voting record. In 1957, he established an informal coalition of members of Congress, later formally organized as the House Democratic Study Group, to counter anti?civil rights actions of southern Democrats.

McCarthy was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1958 and became a respected member of the body. His wit and scholarly, understated manner became recognized nationally, but his demeanor was no match for that of Humphrey, his energetic and voluble colleague. In 1964, President Johnson generated publicity during the Democratic National Convention by floating both senators' names for the vice presidential slot on his reelection ticket. In the end, he chose Humphrey.

In 1965, McCarthy joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was to become the center of congressional opposition to the Vietnam War. Although in 1964 McCarthy had voted for the TONKIN GULF RESOLUTION (78 Stat. 384), which had given President Johnson the power to wage war in Vietnam, he soon had doubts about the wisdom of U.S. involvement. In January 1966, McCarthy and 14 other senators...

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