George McGovern, 90, has died in his home state of South Dakota, according to CNN. McGovern, who served in both the Senate and the House, was famously against the Vietnam War and an advocate for agriculture and feeding the hungry, but more importantly he helped pave the way for the contemporary Democratic party.
While many will remember McGovern for his 1972 election loss to former President Richard Nixon, his report “A Mandate for Change” led to a reorganization of the way Democrats held primaries. Following Fannie Lou Hamer’s infamous 1964 protest against Mississippi’s all-white delegation and the 1968 riot outside of the Democratic Convention, McGovern’s changes opened up the process for African-American participants like Jesse Jackson, and steered the party toward what it is today.
“George McGovern dedicated his life to serving the country he loved. He signed up to fight in World War II, and became a decorated bomber pilot over the battlefields of Europe,” President Barack Obama said in a release from the White House. “When the people of South Dakota sent him to Washington, this hero of war became a champion for peace. And after his career in Congress, he became a leading voice in the fight against hunger. George was a statesman of great conscience and conviction, and Michelle and I share our thoughts and prayers with his family.”
“I think he’ll be remembered obviously for his stance on the war in Vietnam,” said Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, “but also for his contributions on agriculture, on hunger.
“And then the Democratic party. He transformed the party, the primary system, getting minorities involved. He was a gigantic figure and a classy good, good guy.”
Read more at CNN.