By Michael Ge
On April 19th, former Vice President Walter Frederick Mondale passed away at the age of 93. Nicknamed Fritz, Mondale served as vice president during the Carter Administration and transformed the office into its modern day role. Mondale was a passionate liberal who represented the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Mondale also served as Minnesota Attorney General, Senator from Minnesota, and Ambassador to Japan during the Clinton administration. Mondale was married to his wife Joan for 59 years until her death in 2014. Mondale and his wife had three children, Ted, Eleanor, and William.
Mondale was born on January 5, 1928, in Ceylon, Minnesota, a small town with a population of around 500 in the 1920s. In 1948, Mondale first got involved in politics by helping to get Hubert Humphrey elected to the Senate and the two formed a lasting friendship and partnership, with Humphrey mentoring Mondale. Mondale would serve in the Army during the Korean War. In 1960, Mondale was appointed to be Minnesota Attorney General after the previous attorney general resigned. After Hubert Humphrey was elected vice president in 1964, Mondale was appointed to succeed Humphrey in the Senate and the two would later serve together in the Senate after Humphrey returned to the Senate in 1971. Mondale would play a key role in getting the Fair Housing Act passed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
In the presidential election of 1976, then Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter selected Mondale to be his running mate. After he was sworn in, Mondale would transform the vice presidency by taking an active role in shaping policy and advising the president which was in stark contrast to previous vice presidents who were often kept in the dark on important issues. One of Mondale’s greatest achievements as vice president was to help resettle Vietnamese refugees in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Mondale would organize an international effort and convince skeptics to help resettle the refugees in a passionate speech before the United Nations. In 1980, the Carter-Mondale ticket fended off a spirited primary challenge from Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, but lost by a landslide in the general election to the Reagan-Bush ticket.
After leaving the vice presidency, Mondale would win the Democratic Party nomination for president in the 1984 presidential election. He selected New York Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate. It was a historic first as Ferraro was the first woman to be nominated for vice president for a major political party in the United States. The Mondale-Ferraro ticket would lose to the Reagan-Bush ticket in a landslide with the Mondale-Ferraro ticket only winning Mondale’s home state of Minnesota and Washington DC. Mondale would go on to serve as Ambassador to Japan during 1993 to 1996. After the death of Senator Paul Wellstone in a plane crash shortly before election day in 2002, Mondale would replace Wellstone on the ballot, but he would lose narrowly to then St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman. Mondale would later go on to encourage comedian and Wellstone’s friend Al Franken to successfully challenge Coleman in 2008. Mondale would be a mentor to a generation of Minnesota politicians like Paul Wellstone and Amy Klobuchar along with many others.
Former President Jimmy Carter called Mondale in a tribute, “the best vice president in our country’s history” and “an invaluable partner”. President Joe Biden who served with Mondale in the Senate between 1973 to 1976 called Mondale a “dear friend and mentor” and ordered flags to be flown at half staff. Vice President Kamala Harris would also pay tribute to Mondale by thanking Mondale for a lifetime of service. In a final email to his staff, Mondale wrote, “I know you will keep up the good fight.” Walter Mondale kept up the good fight for a lifetime. May he rest in peace.