It was quite a week! Part 2
Last week’s article discussed the visits of Governor George Wallace and activist Abbie Hoffman on May 10th before Michigan’s May 1972 Presidential Primary. But they weren’t the only famous visitors to Marquette that week.
On Friday afternoon, May 12, Hubert Horatio Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President, flew into town. It was his second visit to the city. In May 1966 he had been given a very friendly reception when he received an honorary degree from Northern.
Just that Tuesday he had won the primary in West Virginia. At age 61 he was the oldest of the leading candidates and a very familiar face. He had first run in the primaries against John Kennedy in 1960. Then, after serving as Vice President for four years, and following the contentious Democratic Convention, he had run as his party’s presidential candidate in 1968.
At the airport Humphrey ran into fellow Minnesotan Walter Mondale, Jimmy Carter’s future Vice President and future Presidential candidate himself. A crowd of 500 had gathered for the occasion.
Humphrey was interviewed by The Mining Journal and at WLUC by four local reporters. Commenting on Wallace, he said “He talks about labor and being the friend of the working man, when he doesn’t even have a minimum wage act. The governor has come up here from Alabama to talk about tax reform, and he has the worst tax program of any state in the nation.” He then turned to the economy, saying “My policy will be that American industry will have top priority and this is particularly true with steel, because if the steel industry is in trouble this country is in trouble.”
Later that day Senator Mondale, who had replaced Humphrey in the Senate, spoke before a Steel Workers Union meeting at the Holiday Inn. Also in attendance were Congressman Philip Ruppe and State Representative Dominic Jacobetti. Mondale endorsed Humphry.
In his remarks, Mondale said that money was “…the dark side of the political moon… the growing power and curse…in American politics.” He felt that Wallace “…knows how to complain, but has done nothing for the people of his state… [he’s] the nation’s most gifted bitcher.” He also commented on taxation, noting that “Every 20th millionaire in 1970 paid not a penny in taxes. And most of the others pay taxes at about the rate of an individual earning only $6,000.”
The following Monday, the day before the primary, at a rally in a shopping center in Laurel, Maryland, a young man wearing a Wallace button called out to the governor, “Hey, George, ain’t you go’in to shake my hand?” As Wallace stepped out from behind a bullet proof lectern, the man pulled a gun, opened fire, and shot him five times, also wounding three others including a female campaign worker and a Secret Service Agent. One bullet lodged in Wallace’s spine, crippling him. Earlier the would-be assassin had been in Michigan stalking Wallace, but had not come to the U.P. The crime was not politically motivated.
The Democratic Party in Michigan had gone out of its way to snub Wallace; and the unions had warned their membership about him too. He was an undesirable, an outsider. But the busing issue was politically potent, and on Election Day Wallace carried the state with 51% of the vote, winning 80 of the 83 counties. Marquette County also went for him with 43%; while McGovern got 29% and Humphrey 24%. Because of the returns from the northern precincts, near the college, the City of Marquette went for McGovern.
It is unknown whether the cross-over vote affected the outcome, but after the 1976 elections the Democratic Party imposed a new rule that voters had to declare a party affiliation before they could vote in the primary.
In the end, McGovern won the Democratic nomination but the election was a Nixon “landslide.” He carried 49 states and captured 61% of the vote. However, in the background, a news story was beginning to unfold. It was about a break in at a hotel in Washington — the Watergate.