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Walter Mondale (1928–2021), 42nd vice president and U.S. senator from Minnesota

by Linnea Crowther

Walter Mondale was the 42nd vice president of the United States, serving under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981.

Political career

Known as “Fritz,” Mondale was an active vice president, breaking new ground for the role as he maintained an office in the White House and served as a close advisor to the president in a way no vice president had done before. Prior to his vice presidency, he was a Democratic U.S. senator from Minnesota, serving from 1964 to 1976, and the attorney general of Minnesota from 1960 to 1964. Mondale ran for president in 1984, winning the Democratic nomination, though he lost the general election in a landslide to incumbent President Ronald Reagan (1911–2004). Mondale made history during his presidential run by choosing Geraldine Ferraro (1935–2011) as his running mate – she was the first woman nominated for vice president by a major party. In later years, Mondale served as U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

Presidential platform

As he campaigned for the presidency in 1984, Mondale advocated passing the Equal Rights Amendment and supported the nuclear freeze movement that aimed to deescalate the Cold War-fueled nuclear arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The economy was also a key point in his platform, as he pointed out the budget deficits that had grown under Reagan’s tenure and criticized the president’s supply-side economics.

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It may have been Mondale’s frankness about the country’s budget woes that sank his campaign in the end. He knew raising taxes was crucial to turning the deficit around, and he said so in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention: “Let’s tell the truth. Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did.” But as it turned out, voters didn’t like being told point-blank that their taxes would be raised, and in the end, Mondale won just 13 electoral votes, from Minnesota and the District of Columbia.

Noteworthy longevity

After the death of former President George H.W. Bush (1924–2018), Mondale became the oldest living former U.S. vice president. And in 2014, he became the vice president with the longest retirement from office, surpassing Richard Nixon (1913–1994). But even before Mondale achieved those milestones – long before – he and Carter became the oldest surviving presidential and vice presidential team in U.S. history. By the year 2006, having been out of office for more than 25 years and still living, they had surpassed the longstanding record-holding team, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

Notable quote

“I love public life. I love the issues. I love working with people. I am an old progressive. I like building support for and getting things done. I think in many ways, it is one of the best things you can do for your friends, your family, and our community. The goal is to try to make a more trusted and just society. In America, we have a real opportunity in the most impressive of nations, to do that.” —from a 2009 Huffington Post interview

Funeral details

There will be two public memorial services held in September 2021. One will take place in Minnesota and the other in Washington, DC.

Tributes to Walter Mondale

Full obituary: The New York Times

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