Sunday, October 21, 2012

George McGovern, a hero of mine.

In addition to being a United States Senator, a candidate for President of the United States, a decorated bomber pilot in World War II, George McGovern was an author. Of particular interest to me is “The Great Coalfield War”, published in 1972. It is about the strike by coalminers in southern Colorado during the winter of 1913-1914. The book is based on McGovern’s 450 page Doctoral Dissertation. I wrote recently, in my post about Alex Karras, about the significant number of Greek Americans that were in Pueblo and southern Colorado in the late 19th and early 20th Century that many were involved in the strike and one, Louis Tikas of Denver, was killed on the day of the Ludlow Massacre.

The Ludlow Massacre was an attack by mine guards and members of the Colorado National Guard on the miner's tent colony at Ludlow, which was just outside the mine property about 10 miles north of Trinidad Colorado. The attack occurred on April 20, 1914. A number of people were killed by the guards including 11 children and 20 women were asphyxiated and burned to death in their tent home.

I met George McGovern a number of times and interviewed him once on the phone and once when he spoke at the University of Southern Colorado (now CSU Pueblo). During one of those meetings I had him autograph my copy of “The Great Coalfield War”. He seemed somewhat surprised that I knew about the book and had a copy. He was very self-effacing. He was also a gracious, ‘gentle’ man who came out of the upper Midwest/prairie populist tradition. Food/Hunger/agriculture and peace were his great passions.

I had been a McGovern delegate to the 1972 Colorado State Democratic Convention. That is when I met Gary Hart for the first time. He was working for McGovern’s campaign. That was a wild time, and of course, McGovern was beaten badly by Richard Nixon. Then came Watergate and I think there were a lot of people who, in hindsight, wish that they had cast their votes differently.

My friend Rick Ridder was working on that campaign as well. Moreover, Rick’s wife Joannie Braden and her parents and siblings were very close to McGovern. Her father Tom and George were very good friends. Tom was the author of “Eight is Enough” which was the basis for the television series. Tom had been in the Office of Strategic Services and later the CIA. He passed away in 2009.

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