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1958 United States Senate election in Minnesota

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1958 United States Senate election in Minnesota

← 1952 November 4, 1958 1964 →
 
EugeneMcCarthy.jpg
EdwardThye.jpg
Nominee Eugene J. McCarthy Edward John Thye
Party Democratic–Farmer–Labor Republican
Popular vote 608,847 535,629
Percentage 52.95% 46.58%

MNSenate58.svg
County results

U.S. Senator before election

Edward John Thye
Republican

Elected U.S. Senator

Eugene J. McCarthy
Democratic–Farmer–Labor

The 1958 United States Senate election in Minnesota took place on November 4, 1958. Democratic U.S. Representative Eugene McCarthy defeated incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Edward John Thye, who sought a third term.

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  • ✪ The Man in the Arena - The Life and Times of U.S. Senator Gale McGee by author Rodger McDaniel
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  • ✪ LBJ vs. RFK: Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and the Feud that Defined a Decade (1998)

Transcription

- [Announcer] Your support helps us bring you programs you love. Go to wyomingpbs.org, click on support and become a sustaining member or an annual member. It's easy and secure, thank you. (light upbeat music) - I thought Gale McGee deserved to be remembered. He was in many ways a transitional figure. McGee was the last Democrat Wyoming elected to the U.S. Senate. - Wyoming author Rodger McDaniel and his latest book The Man in the Arena, The Life and Times of United States Senator Gale McGee next on Wyoming Chronicle. (dramatic music) - [Announcer] Funding for this program was provided in part by the Wyoming Public Television Endowment and viewers like you. - And it's our pleasure now to be joined by Rodger McDaniel in your second appearance on Wyoming Chronicle Rodger. - It is, yes. - Welcome. - Thank you. Good to be here. - Roger you first came on Wyoming Chronicle with your first book with the late Richard Eghart - [Rodger] Yes. - The suicide of Wyoming's Senator Lester Hunt and now you've written a new book. - Right. - The Life and Times of Gale McGee, The Man in the Arena. Why this book? - Well I thought Gale McGee deserved to be remembered. He was in many ways a transitional figure. You know before, McGee was the last Democrat Wyoming elected to the U.S. Senate when he won a third term in 1970, half a century ago. And then he was defeated in '76. Before McGee there was never a time in Wyoming history when at least one of our senators wasn't a Democrat, with the exception of the six months after Lester Hunt's suicide when a Republican was appointed to fill in and before Joe O'Mahoney was reelected to take that seat. So Wyoming always before figured that it was in the state's interest to have a balanced Congressional delegation. But that changed in the mid 1970s and as I said there hasn't been, well since Teno served and retired in 1978 from the U.S. House there hasn't been a Democrat elected to either house of Congress from Wyoming. - This book is meticulously researched. How long have you been thinking about the book and how long really did it take you to write it? - Well it took a couple of years to write it. I started thinking about McGee because I ran into people who had no idea who he was. - [Craig] Even in Wyoming. - In Wyoming and one woman asked me what I was working on I told her I was writing a biography of Gale McGee. She said who was she? (laughing) And so you know he accomplished a great deal and he was in, the man in the arena, as I use that Teddy Roosevelt speech on issues that were very significant at the time. The war in Vietnam, the environmental movement, the civil rights movement. - And we'll get into more of that as we talk more about his life. What has been wonderful for me, and this is a grand read Rodger for those of us who grew up here in Wyoming it really talks about a time that has passed Wyoming by in my eyes, would you agree with that? - Well and it's a time that, it talks about a time that has passed the country by and throughout the book you see the ability of politicians to discuss very divisive issues and yet remain friends and respectful of one another, have a debate based on facts. - And maybe negotiate some. - [Rodger] And compromise. - And compromise, sure. - Right, it was a different time and McGee was a part of that and when the end came that was the beginning of that change in America. - You really write well about his campaigns. Let's go back though even farther. This was a school teacher from Nebraska. - Yes. - Originally who liked to hunt and fish. - Yeah, he was and he grew up in Norfolk Nebraska, a small community. Then after he got his degree he started teaching at small schools. - High school first, then smaller universities. - Right and then he was recruited to be the debate coach at Nebraska Wesleyan whose debate coach had a national reputation. Her teams won national titles routinely and she recruited Gale McGee to take her place because of his reputation as a public speaker, which followed him his whole career. - Boy did it ever and we'll get into that too. - You know he taught at Notre Dame later. - [Brian] University of Chicago. - And he studied at the University of Chicago. He was recruited to come to Laramie after the war because there was this huge influx of veterans who were using the G.I. Bill to go to college and the university, like all universities around the country had a real struggle trying to find enough room and enough faculty and so a recruiter from Laramie ended up at Notre Dame and found Gale McGee and he thought he'd be interested in coming to the University of Wyoming. They had a fellow professor there who had been at Laramie and went to him and said what do you think, should I take this job in Laramie? The fellow said no, no you would not like Laramie Wyoming. And Gale said why not? He said because there's not a decent supper club within 50 miles and there's not a theater within 100 miles. And Gale said well what do those folks do? And he said all they do is hunt and fish. - [Brian] Sold. - McGee said I'm in, I'll go and that's what brought him here. - And he was brought to the University of Wyoming to teach history. - [Rodger] Yes. - Classes were very popular. - Yes, yeah his classes were packed. As I worked on the book I talked to so many people who had either been in his class or had tried to get into his class and it was filled every semester to the point where the university had to restrict enrollment in the class. People from the community would line up in the back of the room and peer in to listen to him. Al Simpson jokes that the only reason he'd get up before 8:00 o'clock in the morning was for that 8:00 o'clock history class. - Who wrote the forward for the book. - [Rodger] Who wrote the forward, yes. - Very nice, then there was the red scare-- - [Rodger] Yes. - At the University of Wyoming and Gale McGee was in the middle of that. - He was and he was an untenured professor. - Of 15 on the panel he was the only one who was really at risk. - Yeah, took great risk and it cost him a lot because he earned some enemies among some of the board of trustees who spent a good deal of the rest of his tenure at Laramie trying to figure out how to fire him. - And let's tell our viewers what the red scare was. - Well what happened in the height of the red scare is that some of the trustees went to a seminar at Ann Arbor Michigan and one of the sessions was entitled the little red schoolhouse is redder than you think. And the pitch was that university trustees needed to be aware that in their libraries and in their classrooms there were subversive texts being used by liberal professors to teach communist principles. And so the trustees came back quite alarmed at that and passed a resolution to review the textbooks and it exploded with criticism. Laramie was the first university to do that and the criticism was everywhere throughout the country. People like Arthur Schlesinger and others were writing op-eds criticizing the university for taking that step. And McGee joined a group of professors to fight against it. Eventually the trustees figured out that they had made the wrong move and they got out of it by asking Gale McGee and Doc Larson, T. A. Larson, to review some books and report back to them and they did them and reported back that they couldn't find any subversive texts and it went away. But it didn't go away for McGee. As a result of that a couple of the trustees actually hired students to spy on Professor McGee's classes to see what he was teaching. And of course they reported back that his classes were very popular and they enjoyed them and they found nothing subversive. - Gale McGee actually became one of the first Americans to go behind the Iron Curtain. - He was, Russia had always intrigued him and he led the first group of non-government people to go behind the Red Curtain and spent several weeks touring much of the old Soviet Union. He came back and during the time of Sputnik and then the great scare in America that the Russians had beat us into space and he found that people in Wyoming really wanted to know more about Russia and he became a very popular speaker. In every community he spoke, at almost every church in the state and civic clubs. - That struck me, that's where he spoke often at churches. - [Rodger] Yeah. - And sometimes wasn't initially welcomed. - Right, you know this idea that he was a little bit pink, maybe too far red followed him his whole life although he was the leading spokesman for fighting communism in southeast Asia, but there was something about him that caused some people, you know the John Birch Society had a big place in Wyoming. - They did not like Gale McGee. - They did not like him. They didn't like Richard Nixon, who was the great red hunter of the Congress, but they didn't trust him and that sort of attitude prevailed against McGee. In fact his FBI file which I obtained is about six inches thick. - He made J. Edgar Hoover's list. - He made J. Edgar Hoover's list, although there were people in Wyoming writing Hoover saying you need to investigate Gale McGee and making wild claims about him. When the FBI looked at that they found nothing and McGee was a big supporter of the FBI. - There was always in the back of his mind a desire to run for political office. - There was. - You made the comment that no candidate in American history may have been more prepared to run for the U.S. Senate than Gale McGee. - Yeah I think that's true. It actually started in 1950 and McGee had only been in the state about four years, but the Laramie Boomerang and the Cheyenne newspaper started writing editorials about this young professor at Laramie who was so eloquent and so bright and ought to be running for Congress and he got the itch. Friends from around Wyoming and elsewhere were excited about the prospect and joined the chorus. Letters filled McGee's mailbox. They came from new friends in Wyoming and from old friends on the many campuses where he had either studied or taught. Party activist and fellow professor John Hinckley of Powell urged him to run with a starkly candid but characteristically humorous assessment of what was at stake. Quote I say give us a chance to stand and be counted. Hell, you've nothing to lose but your shirt and perhaps a little self-respect and both can be recovered. (laughing) At the beginning of 1950 McGee started looking to the future and during those years he prepared himself not only by traveling the state and getting to know people, but he did an internship at the Council on Foreign Relations which was very significant because there he was asked to study what would happen to the Soviet Union after Stalin's death. And what he concluded was that China and Russia would not be able to maintain their alliance, that while they were both communist they were different kinds of communists and McGee said, this was in the mid 1950s, that China was the most dangerous country on the planet endangering world peace. And that began to develop his sense that the Chinese would take over southeast Asia if the United States didn't stop them in Vietnam. And in that process he got to know people like Eleanor Roosevelt and Dean Rusk and Henry Kissinger and so many others, many of whom later would help him in 1958 when he decided to run for Senate. - And then he did decide to run and ran against Senator Barrett. - [Rodger] Yes. - How much in your view did Barrett's supposedly unethical intervention in the Robertson's sale of the ranch to H.L. Hunt and then the 900,000 dollar tax bill, how much did that influence the ultimate outcome of that election? - Well when you win an election by less than 2,000 votes everything, you can point at everything as being-- - [Craig] Right. - Having an impact, but that did have an impact. It was printed in the papers within just a few weeks of the election. Denied by former Senator Robertson and by Barrett and so Drew Pearson ran a second story on election day about it. I think it cannot but have been a big difference maker. In the last few days of the campaign it all looked pretty close and something was going to happen to break it loose and that was one event and Lyndon Johnson's promise to put McGee on the Appropriations Committee as the first freshman ever on that committee also was a big deal in the last week of the campaign. - As I was reading through your wonderful recount of his campaign the influence of Wyoming newspapers was just big. - Yes. - Back then and it seems to be very different today. - Well it was, you think back to those days and of course there was no internet, there was no 24/7 news on television constantly, radio you know if you missed the, if you're a farmer or a rancher and you missed the 6:00 a.m. news you didn't know, you didn't hear these things, but newspapers were always there and they were well read and had a circulation was large and they were very influential. - Influential in their opinion. - [Rodger] They were. - That's changed certainly somewhat today. He won, he moved to Washington. You write that it was earth shakingly emotionally and personally when the family made the move. - Yeah, well you know the McGees never had much money and when he ran that '58 campaign he had to cash in a small life insurance policy and take a loan from his in-laws and from his parents and he had to go on a leave without pay in June of 1958 so by January of '59 when he gets to Washington he hasn't had a paycheck for six months. - On leave from the university. - Right. - Sure. - And so you know the funny story is he's anxious to see if he can get an advance on his first month's salary and Joe O'Mahoney takes him to see the clerk of the Senate and he explains to him the benefits you get as a Senator, you get free haircuts and there's a doctor available for healthcare and you get free postage and two trips a year back home, but no you can't have an advance on your paycheck. - His first speech done earlier than most freshman Senators. He was introduced by JFK. - Yeah, he was. John Kennedy had been a friend of his from those earlier days at the Council on Foreign Relations, that was a friendship he established then and with Lyndon Johnson. One of the first campaign contributions that McGee got was from John Kennedy when he personally landed his plane people remember the airplane named after his daughter the Caroline, landed at the Laramie airport, handed Gale McGee five crisp 100 dollar bills, which in 1958 was a load of money, but they were friends and when he went to Washington that friendship continued. - Oh boy did it ever. One of the most fascinating parts of the book for me was JFK's campaign and Wyoming's role-- - [Rodger] Yes. - In his election to become the Democratic candidate. - Yeah it's a big piece of Wyoming history. Back in those days they called the roll alphabetically and so Wyoming was the last to vote. Both Lyndon Johnson and Senator Kennedy thought all along that McGee was with them for a variety of reasons. - And he held it close to the vest, didn't he? - He would not endorse during the campaign and so it came down to the last state. When it got to Wyoming Kennedy was still short by 11 votes, Wyoming had 15 votes, and only seven were committed to Kennedy and so the book tells the story of somebody's voice screaming at the Wyoming delegation get me four more votes. And suddenly Tracy McCracken grabs the microphone and says all 15 of Wyoming's votes will go to the next president of the United States John Kennedy and the crowd bursts and the band started playing and what's odd is that one of those 15 votes was of Governor Hickey who had moments later given a seconding nomination for LBJ. So it's kind of, maybe those 15 votes got hijacked. - There's some thought had he not won on the first ballot. - [Rodger] Yeah. - That he wouldn't have won. - Yeah, the Kennedy team was convinced and so was the Johnson team. Johnson thought if they could get it past that first ballot that there were enough people who then would not be committed on a second ballot that Johnson instead of Kennedy would have been the nominee. - Through his tenure in the Senate he became a tremendous influence to Kennedy, to Johnson and to Nixon, relative to foreign policy issues of the country, this guy from Wyoming. - Well that's one of the reasons I wanted to write the book is that Gale McGee always played down his role in foreign policy because his staff said the folks back home won't like that. They want to know that you're working on Wyoming issues and not spending a lot of time on foreign policy and he did work on Wyoming issues. But he was heavily involved in so many of the foreign policy decisions, that had been his love and you know it was wonderful that the majority leader Lyndon Johnson put him on the Appropriations Committee because he could funnel millions of dollars back to Wyoming for water projects and schools and all kinds of public improvements, but he really wanted on the Foreign Relations Committee and LBJ said look young man I think I've given you enough favors. So he couldn't initially get on the Foreign Relations Committee but later he did, which is a story in itself particularly around Vietnam. But he was involved in issues ranging from the Middle East to the creation of the Peace Corps, the Kennedy initiative in South America and so much other of America's foreign policy and then he's probably best known as being the leading Congressional proponent for the war in Vietnam. - We'll get to that in just a minute. Also about the boarding of the U.S.S. Pueblo. He played a significant role in urging his colleagues to exercise restraint and when many from Wyoming didn't necessarily agree that exercising restraint was the right thing to do. - Yeah, his mailbox was filled with letters from people all over the state urging that he support a military attack on North Korea. And he and others tried to calm that situation and it cost Gale McGee a lot of support back in Wyoming. But he gave a speech on that issue on the floor of the Senate at the height of the controversy when the Americans were still being held as hostages. - For nine months or so? - For nine months in North Korea and being badly treated. A cause to go to war, but a war was just not the right option and McGee said you know you can start a war these days but you can't finish it given the armaments that are available to people like the leaders of North Korea. So he gave this really marvelous speech that Robert Bird called one of the greatest speeches delivered on the floor of the United States Senate. - And then there was Vietnam and he was a supporter for the United State's involvement in Vietnam. Again to the chagrin of many Wyomingites especially as the war raged on. - You know in the beginning, back before McGee was involved in politics and in the early days of teaching he was an isolationist. He voted for Norman Thomas for president. He attended Charles Lindbergh's America First rallies. He petitioned his draftboard to be a contentious objector and was given contentious objector status, which I suspect some of his later political opponents would have liked to have known. But then came Pearl Harbor and that changed everything and McGee then tried to volunteer. He wanted to be a Navy pilot, but he was teaching a military program at Notre Dame which rushed young Second Lieutenants to a bachelor's degree so they could be commissioned and sent to the front. So Notre Dame would not release him. But his draftboard changed his status to 1A and he was drafted and went for his physical and that's where he found that he was a diabetic and had diabetes severely enough that he couldn't serve. So then he goes to the University of Chicago where he studies international affairs and you can read his scholarly writings during that period of his life concluding with his dissertation on the question of the founding fathers' views about foreign entanglements and you can watch as you read that him move from being an isolationist to believing that America had no choice but to involve itself in the foreign affairs of the world. That that, because it was our own security which was at stake. So that's where he developed this sense, what people would later call the domino theory. His firm belief that if we didn't stop communism in Vietnam the Chinese would take over all of southeast Asia. So that led him to support Kennedy first and Johnson later on the war in Vietnam. The epilogue of the book imagines Gale McGee coming back today and seeing what the Senate is like and how different it is technologically, how different it is politically, the polarization that he would not recognize, the mount of money that is involved in running for the Senate. And I conclude the book with these sentences. McGee was a college professor at Nebraska Wesleyan where he taught tolerance for Japanese Americans during World War II and at the University of Wyoming where his history classes inspired thousands of young people. He was a United States Senator who taught that the most divisive issues can be discussed honestly and with respect, and an ambassador who believed America was strongest when it was serving the hopes of smaller, less advantaged nations. Perhaps Gale McGee's greatest legacy is leaving us with an idea of what we once were, what politicians once were and how to get back there again. - Lot of people talk about civility and his ability to have these difficult and hard discussions, it just doesn't happen anymore. - It doesn't and you know there was nothing more divisive in our history than the war on Vietnam and he and George McGovern debated Vietnam on 700 college campuses and remained the closest of friends. McGovern came to Laramie to campaign for Gale when he had an anti-war opponent in the 1970 election. They had that ability to get along and to respect one another on very difficult issues and we've lost that. - And before we end we should talk about his wife Loraine's role in his life. At his side, managing his diabetic issues. - Yeah, she was a full partner from the very beginning. You know interesting story, her parents didn't like Gale McGee and they didn't like this young man coming around, but Loraine did and eventually they married and had this wonderful partnership throughout their life. She was involved in all ways in his campaigns and later when he was an ambassador. And one of her big roles was his health because he was diabetic and she could sense the body changing at night while he slept and that he would be having a diabetic episode and her ability to do that saved his life on many occasions. But they were the best of friends. You know not just husband and wife, but full partners in life. - In my eyes The Man in the Arena, The Life and Times of Senator Gale McGee for anyone who wants to understand Wyoming's history in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and United States' history at that time and a gentleman from Wyoming's influence there couldn't be a better researched book that tells the story. - Well thank you. He does deserve to be remembered and those times were significant so I hope people enjoy the book. - Currently you're the pastor at the Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne. - I am. - You also continue to write a column for the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and the Laramie Boomerang. - [Rodger] Yes sir. - And a committed grandfather and Rockies fan. - Oh all of that, all of the above. - Congratulation on the book. - Thank you. - Rodger it's been a pleasure as always. - Thanks for having me. (light upbeat music) (dramatic music) - [Announcer] Funding for this program was provided in part by the Wyoming Public Television Endowment and viewers like you.

Contents

Democratic–Farmer–Labor primary

Candidates

Declared

Results

Democratic primary election results[1]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic–Farmer–Labor Eugene J. McCarthy 279,796 75.65%
Democratic–Farmer–Labor Hjalmar Petersen 76,340 20.64%
Democratic–Farmer–Labor Hans R. Miller 13,736 3.71%
Total votes 369,872 100.00%

Republican primary

Candidates

Declared

Results

Republican primary election results[2]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Edward John Thye (Incumbent) 224,833 91.81%
Republican Edward C. Slettedahl 13,734 5.61%
Republican Mrs. Peder P. Schmidt 6,332 2.58%
Total votes 244,899 100.00%

General election

Results

General election results[3]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic–Farmer–Labor Eugene J. McCarthy 608,847 52.95%
Republican Edward John Thye (Incumbent) 535,629 46.58%
Socialist Workers William M. Curran 5,407 0.47%
Total votes 1,149,883 100.00%
Majority 73,218 6.37%
Democratic–Farmer–Labor gain from Republican

See also

References

This page was last edited on 26 September 2019, at 20:13
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