Former Vice President Walter Mondale Dies At 93

The liberal former senator from Minnesota later ran for president.

Former Vice President Walter Frederick Mondale died Monday at age 93, his family said in a statement.

“It is with profound sadness that we share news that our beloved dad passed away today in Minneapolis, Minnesota,” reads the statement. “As proud as we were of him leading the presidential ticket for Democrats in 1984, we know that our father’s public policy legacy is so much more. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was one of his proudest ― and hardest fought ― achievements. ...We are grateful that he had the opportunity to see the emergence of another generation of civil rights reckoning in the past months.”

A cause of death had not been released as of Monday night. Memorial services will be in Minnesota and Washington, D.C., the family said.

Walter Mondale campaigning for the presidency in 1984.
Walter Mondale campaigning for the presidency in 1984.
Robert R. McElroy/Getty Images

Mondale, nicknamed “Fritz,” served under former President Jimmy Carter from January 1977 to January 1981. Together, the two endowed the vice presidency with more authority: Mondale was the first vice president to have an office in the West Wing and to have weekly lunches with the president.

In a statement, Carter referred to Mondale as a “dear friend” whom he considered “the best vice president in our country’s history.”

“During our administration, Fritz used his political skill and personal integrity to transform the vice presidency into a dynamic, policy-driving force that had never been seen before and still exists today,” Carter said.

Speaking at an event in Washington honoring Mondale’s legacy in 2015, Carter called their work “historic.”

“What Fritz and I did together was historic,” Carter said then. “It changed the basic structure of the executive branch of government to bring in the vice president as a full partner of the president.”

Mondale had previously served in the Senate, and his knowledge of Capitol Hill were an asset for Carter.

“As a Georgia peanut farmer, I needed a lot of help, and I thought the vice president would be best to give me the help I need,” Carter said. “Fritz was an expert on what was going on in Washington … As far as I know, he was almost like another president.”

Carter and Mondale lost their reelection bid to Ronald Reagan in 1980.

When Mondale ran for president in 1984, he made history by choosing Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to run for vice president from a major party, as his running mate. Reagan defeated the ticket in a landslide, winning all but Mondale’s home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia.

Mondale with former President Jimmy Carter at a gala in Mondale's honor on Oct. 20, 2015.
Mondale with former President Jimmy Carter at a gala in Mondale's honor on Oct. 20, 2015.
Leigh Vogel/Getty Images

Mondale was born on Jan. 5, 1928, in Ceylon, Minnesota. His father was a Methodist minister and his mother was a music teacher. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1951, then served in the Army for two years, attaining the rank of corporal. He married Joan Adams in 1955 and received his law degree from the University of Minnesota the next year.

After practicing law for four years, Mondale was appointed attorney general of Minnesota at 32, becoming the youngest state attorney general in the country.

In 1962, Mondale wrote and submitted a legal brief in a Supreme Court case that established a plaintiff’s constitutional right to counsel in felony cases. He recruited 22 other attorneys general to sign the brief to support the right to counsel.

Mondale quickly moved up the political ladder. He was appointed to fill his mentor and idol Hubert Humphrey’s Senate seat in 1964 after Humphrey was elected vice president alongside President Lyndon B. Johnson. Mondale was reelected in 1966 and 1972.

In the Senate, Mondale distinguished himself as an advocate for school desegregation and other civil rights issues. He was a chief sponsor of the federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibited housing discrimination.

“Walter Mondale championed progressive causes and changed the role of VP ― so leaders like @JoeBiden could be the last ones in the room when decisions were made,” tweeted former President Barack Obama, referencing the current president who served as his vice president. “In selecting Geraldine Ferraro, he also paved the way for [Vice President Kamala Harris] to make history. Michelle and I send prayers to his family.”

Mondale also played a key role on the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities ― commonly known as the Church Committee ― which investigated the the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency and other federal intelligence activities. The committee investigated plans to assassinate foreign leaders, as well as the FBI’s effort to “dethrone” and “neutralize” civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. through surveillance. Mondale vocally advocated for more oversight of the intelligence community.

“None of us can afford to be insensitive to the grave implications of unjustified and unlawful spying by the government,” Mondale said in 1973. “It poses a very real danger to the personal freedoms which are the cornerstone of our democratic system.”

After serving as vice president under Carter for one term, Mondale mounted his own bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984, defeating former Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.) and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, among others.

Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro on the campaign trail in 1984.
Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro on the campaign trail in 1984.
PhotoQuest/Getty Images

An honest remark Mondale made at the Democratic convention that year as he accepted the nomination would come back to haunt him.

“Let’s tell the truth. ... Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won’t tell you, I just did,” Mondale said while explaining how he’d tackle the national deficit.

Reagan and Bush were reelected in a landslide. After he lost the election, Mondale told friends that “Reagan was promising them ‘Morning in America,’ and I was promising a root canal.”

Mondale then returned to practicing law in Minnesota, and later served as U.S. ambassador to Japan and as an envoy to Indonesia under President Bill Clinton.

In 2002, Mondale almost returned to Congress at the age of 74, entering the race after Sen. Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash just 11 days before the election. Mondale narrowly lost to Republican Norm Coleman.

He went on to serve as chairman of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes U.S.-Asia relations, and as Norway’s honorary consul general in Minneapolis, because of his Norwegian heritage. In 2010, he published his memoir, “The Good Fight: A Life in Liberal Politics” with David Hage.

Mondale’s wife, Joan, died in 2014. He is survived by two of their three children: William and Theodore. Their daughter, Eleanor, died of brain cancer in 2011.

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