Updated: April 19, 2021 10:58 PM
Created: April 19, 2021 07:46 PM
Former Vice President Walter Mondale, one of the architects of Minnesota's liberal tradition, has died, his family announced Monday. He was 93.
Along with Hubert Humphrey in the 1960s, Mondale put Minnesota on the map as a reliably blue state.
Mondale started his career in Washington in 1964, when he was appointed to the Senate to replace Humphrey, who had resigned to become vice president. Mondale was elected to a full six-year term with about 54% of the vote in 1966, although Democrats lost the governorship and suffered other election setbacks. In 1972, Mondale won another Senate term with nearly 57% of the vote.
In 1976, he was elected as President Jimmy Carter's vice president — a Southern governor nicknamed "Grits" to go along with Mondale's nickname of "Fritz." The duo lost their reelection bid to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in 1980.
In a statement Monday night, Carter said he considered Mondale "the best vice president in our country's history." He added: "Fritz Mondale provided us all with a model for public service and private behavior."
In 1984, Mondale was the Democratic presidential nominee, along with running mate Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman. Reagan won every state except Minnesota.
Mondale retired from running races and started backing other Minnesota political figures, standing behind Paul Wellstone as he was sworn into office as a U.S. senator in 1991.
When a plane crash killed Wellstone on Oct. 25, 2002, Mondale stepped in to take his place on the ballot. Mondale's five-day campaign wasn't enough to win against Republican Norm Coleman, who was elected by a margin of fewer than 50,000 votes.
Mondale was born Jan. 5, 1928, in the southern Minnesota town of Ceylon to parents Theodore and Claribel Mondale.
Gov. Tim Walz tweeted about the passing of the Minnesota politician, calling him "a dear friend and mentor."
"He believed that the greatness of America is found in the everyday men and women who build our nation, do its work, and defend its freedoms. And he fought tirelessly for those values until the very end of his life, imploring each of us through his example to continue the fight," Walz said on social media.
Today, Minnesota and the nation mourn the loss of a beloved public servant. Gwen and I mourn the loss of a dear friend and mentor.— Governor Tim Walz (@GovTimWalz) April 20, 2021
Walter Mondale believed in and worked to create a nation with a heart, a soul, and a conscience.
Walz ordered all Minnesota flags to be flown at half-staff at all state buildings until Mondale's burial.
Monday evening, Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin shared a message that Mondale had sent to his staff prior to his passing.
This was Walter Mondale's last message - sent out once he passed away this evening to all of his staff who worked for him over the years: @thedemocrats@demstateparties@MinnesotaDFL pic.twitter.com/Ki3cnHPMaI— Ken Martin (@kenmartin73) April 20, 2021
President Joe Biden said of Mondale: "There have been few senators, before or since, who commanded such universal respect. ... It was Walter Mondale who defined the vice presidency as a full partnership, and helped provide a model for my service."
The statement from the family can be read below:
It is with profound sadness that we share news that our beloved dad passed away today in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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 than that. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was one of his proudest – and hardest fought – achievements. In the course of his years in the U.S. Senate, he understood the sense of reckoning that this country then faced, and was committed to that work alongside Hubert Humphrey, Josie Johnson, Roy Wilkins and so many others. We are grateful that he had the opportunity to see the emergence of another generation of civil rights reckoning in the past months.
It is also poignant that his other area of major policy focus was the environment, as the world's grappling with climate change enters a new generation of critical work. Passage of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act was another hard-fought accomplishment in his long career.
He was honored to serve as Minnesota's Attorney General, as United States Senator from Minnesota, as U.S. Ambassador to Japan; his greatest honor and privilege, of course, was serving as Vice President of the United States under President Jimmy Carter.
Beyond his commitment to public service, our dad was committed to our family, and we will miss him more than words can capture. He was preceded in death by our sister, Eleanor, and our mother. He is survived by sons Ted and William; grandchildren Louis, Amanda, Berit and Charlotte Mondale, and Cassandra and Danielle Miller; daughter-in-law Rebecca Mondale and son-in-law Chan Poling.
We also want to express our deep gratitude to all the people who worked on his staff in each public office and who maintained active connections with him in the years since. Finally, deep appreciation to Lynda Pedersen, his long-standing executive assistant at the Dorsey Law firm and to Patti Schwartz, his primary homecare provider since the passing of our mother, Joan, in 2014.
Plans for memorials will be announced later for both Minnesota and Washington D.C.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright 2021 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company