Walter Mondale

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Walter F. Mondale
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Walter F. Mondale

Order: 42nd Vice President
Term of Office: January 20, 1977
January 20, 1981
Followed: Nelson Rockefeller
Succeeded by: George H. W. Bush
Date of Birth: January 5, 1928
Place of Birth: Ceylon, Minn.
Wife: Joan Adams
Profession: Lawyer
Political Party: Democrat
President: Jimmy Carter

Walter Frederick "Fritz" Mondale (born January 5, 1928) is an American politician and member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. He was the 42nd US Vice President (1977-1981) under President Jimmy Carter. He was also a two-term US Senator from Minnesota and the Democratic Party nominee for president in 1984 against the incumbent, Republican Ronald W. Reagan, who was reelected.


Early life

Mondale was born in Ceylon, Minnesota, the son of a Methodist minister. He was educated at Macalester College in St. Paul and the University of Minnesota, graduating in 1951. He then served two years at Fort Knox, in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He graduated with a law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1956 and began to practice law in Minneapolis.

Entry into politics

He managed the re-election campaign of Gov. Orville Freeman, who in return in 1960 appointed Mondale the state's attorney general. He spent two terms as attorney general. When Hubert H. Humphrey II was elected vice president in 1964, Mondale was appointed to Humphrey's seat in the Senate. Mondale was elected to the seat in 1966 and re-elected in 1972.

Mondale gained public notice for his role in the Apollo 1 investigation. He attempted to show that NASA was dangerous and a waste of taxpayer money. His ultimate goal was that this money should be directed into social services. Many people came away from the experience with the belief that Mondale was on a witch-hunt.

42nd Vice President

When Jimmy Carter won the Democratic nomination for president in 1976, he chose Mondale as his running mate. Mondale was inaugurated as vice president on 20 January, 1977. He was the first vice president to reside at the official vice presidential residence, Number One Observatory Circle. Carter and Mondale were renominated at the 1980 Democratic National Convention, but lost to Ronald W. Reagan and George H. W. Bush. (See U.S. presidential election, 1976, U.S. presidential election, 1980.)

Presidential nominee of 1984

After a brief return to the practice of law, Mondale won the Democratic presidential nomination in the 1984 election. He chose U.S. Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro of New York as his running mate, making her the first woman nominated for that position by a major party. Mondale ran a liberal campaign, supporting a nuclear freeze and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). He spoke against what he considered to be unfairness in Reagan's economic policies and the need to reduce federal budget deficits.

Mondale shakes hands with Ronald Reagan before a debate in 1984.
Mondale shakes hands with Ronald Reagan before a debate in 1984.

When he made his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention, Mondale said: "Let's tell the truth. Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did." Although he intended this to demonstrate that he was honest while Reagan was hypocritical, it was widely remembered as simply a campaign pledge to raise taxes, and it hurt him in the end. In 1986, Reagan did sign into law a bill that raised taxes for corporations, but at the same time cut taxes further for individual taxpayers.

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Mondale talks during a debate with Norm Coleman in 2002.

In the 1984 election, Mondale was defeated in a massive landslide, winning only the District of Columbia and his home state of Minnesota, thus securing only 13 electoral votes to Reagan's 525. Following the election, Mondale returned again to private law practice, with Dorsey & Whitney in Minnesota in 1987. From 1986 to 1993, Mondale was chairman of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

Under the presidency of Bill Clinton, he was ambassador to Japan from 1993 to 1996, chaired a bipartisan group to study campaign finance reform, and was Clinton's representative in Indonesia in 1998.

2002 election

In 2002, Democratic US Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, who was running for re-election, died in a plane crash just 11 days before the Nov. 5 election. Mondale, at age 74, replaced Wellstone on the ballot, but narrowly lost the election to Republican opponent Norm Coleman. Upon conceding the election, Mondale said, "At the end of what will be my last campaign, I want to say to Minnesota, you always treated me well, you always listened to me." Mondale finished with 1,067,246 votes (47.34%) to Coleman's 1,116,697 (49.53%) out of 2,254,639 votes cast.

Norwegian ancestry

Mondale has always maintained strong ties to his ancestral Norway. Ironically, when he entered the Senate in 1964 he took over the seat of vice president Hubert Humphrey, another Norwegian-American. In later years Mondale has served on the executive committee of the Peace Prize Forum, an annual conference co-sponsored by the Norwegian Nobel Institute and five Midwestern colleges of Norwegian heritage. In connection with Norway's Centennial Celebration in 2005, he chairs the committee to promote and develop cultural activities between Norway and Norwegian-American organizations. During the 1984 Presidential election he was even nicknamed "Norwegian wood", a play on the Beatles song, his ancestory and his appearance.

Mondale's daughter Eleanor is a television personality.

External links

Preceded by:
Hubert H. Humphrey
U.S. Senator from Minnesota
1964 – 1976
Succeeded by:
Wendell Anderson
Preceded by:
Sargent Shriver
Democratic Party Vice Presidential candidate
1976 (won), 1980 (lost)
Succeeded by:
Geraldine Ferraro
Preceded by:
Nelson Rockefeller
Vice President of the United States
January 20, 1977January 20, 1981
Succeeded by:
George H. W. Bush
Preceded by:
Jimmy Carter
Democratic Party Presidential candidate
1984 (lost)
Succeeded by:
Michael Dukakis

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