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OBIT-MCCARTHY Dec-12-2005 (840 words) With photo. xxxn

Eugene McCarthy, former senator and presidential candidate, dies

By Jerry Filteau
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Eugene J. McCarthy, the scholarly U.S. senator from Minnesota whose 1968 run for the presidency fueled the anti-Vietnam War movement across the nation, died Dec. 10 at the Georgetown Retirement Residence in Washington. McCarthy, 89, had Parkinson's disease.

He was to be buried Dec. 14 in a private service in Woodville, Va., where he spent most of his retirement years. St. John's Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn., where McCarthy studied, taught and briefly entered monastic life, plans to celebrate a memorial service with his family at a time to be announced.

McCarthy, a Catholic, taught at St. John's and later at the College (now University) of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., where he was head of the sociology department when he entered politics.

He wrote poetry, books on politics and political philosophy and numerous articles in a wide range of publications, including the Catholic periodicals Commonweal and National Catholic Reporter.

Often described as more of a philosopher than a politician, in his speeches and writings he often reflected a deep familiarity with Catholic social teachings and the ethical demands of politics.

St. John's Abbot John Klassen said, "Today we join others in paying tribute to a brilliant career in which Gene skillfully blended philosophy, poetry, politics and humor. It was a career ever distinguished by high ethical standards and a commitment to Benedictine values."

A member of Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, he represented the state's Fourth District in the House of Representatives from 1949 until 1958, when he was elected to the first of two terms in the Senate.

He broke Democratic ranks in late 1967 to oppose America's growing involvement in Vietnam, challenging President Lyndon B. Johnson for the Democratic presidential nomination.

His strong showing in the New Hampshire primary, where he got 42 percent of the vote to Johnson's 49 percent, gave new credibility to the anti-war movement and led to U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's entry into the race and Johnson's decision, less than three weeks later, not to run for re-election.

McCarthy won primaries in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Oregon and New York, but Kennedy's campaign was gaining momentum and Kennedy won the California primary the day he was assassinated.

Years later McCarthy's campaign manager, Blair Clark, wrote that after Kennedy's death McCarthy made no effort to reassemble the anti-war coalition that had shifted to Kennedy.

The street riots that accompanied the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago symbolized the disarray within the party, which nominated Johnson's vice president, Hubert H. Humphrey as its presidential candidate. In the general election Republican candidate Richard M. Nixon narrowly beat Humphrey.

In the midst of the primary campaign McCarthy surprised political pros across the country by interrupting his campaign for four days to go on retreat with his campaign staff at St. John's.

The war in Vietnam would continue seven more years, but McCarthy's 1968 campaign is viewed by many as the historic turning point in American public opinion against the war.

In 1969 McCarthy and his wife of 24 years, Abigail, separated, but they never divorced. She died in 2001.

In 1970 McCarthy retired from the Senate. He ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for president in 1972. He campaigned as an independent in 1976, 1988 and 1992 but was not considered a major challenge to the traditional two-party system.

In a 1976 forum on religion and the presidency, McCarthy said politicians should "avoid unwarranted appeals to religion" in their public lives.

"In recent years," he said, "we've had two types of presidential candidates. One type says, 'My religion is very vague, but I will apply it strongly.' The other type says, 'My religion is very strong, but I will apply it vaguely.' It is absurd to hold that religion and politics can be kept wholly apart when they meet in the conscience of one man. If a man is religious and he is in politics, one fact will relate to the other if he is indeed a whole man."

Born March 29, 1916, in Watkins, Minn., McCarthy graduated from St. John's Preparatory School in Collegeville in 1932 and from St. John's University in 1935. In 1934-35 he was top scorer on the university's hockey team, taking it to its first state championship in history.

He taught at public high schools in North Dakota and Minnesota, 1935-40, and earned a master's degree from the University of Minnesota in 1938.

He returned to St. John's to teach economics and education from 1940 to 1943, entering the monastery's novitiate in his final year there.

In 1943 he enlisted in the Army and became an intelligence officer. In 1944-45 he was a code breaker for the War Department. After the war he farmed briefly, then joined the faculty of St. Thomas College, where he taught economics and sociology until he entered politics in 1949.

His survivors include a son, Michael of Seattle; two daughters, Ellen of Bethesda, Md., and Margaret of Takoma Park, Md.; a brother and sister; and six grandchildren.


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