Reform Movement Mourns a Loyal Friend -- Eugene McCarthy

By Robert Kyser
Volume 16, Number 2 (Winter 2005-2006)
Issue theme: "The 14th Amendment: what were the intentions of the Amendment's framers?"

Early in my association with The Social Contract Press I was seated in a meeting of writers for the immigration reform movement in a Washington hotel. There were about 50 people in the room. I was suddenly aware that someone who had come in a bit late was sliding into the empty chair next to me. I turned and smiled a welcome and got a wonderful smile in return. I became aware that he was a giant of a man physically. And then, recognizing who it was, I had to acknowledge that he was also a giant in so many other ways. On that occasion I had been privileged to meet, for the first of several times, former Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy, one of the country's most influential political figures, who died in December 2005 at the age of 89. McCarthy served two terms in the U.S. Senate, and before that five terms in the House of Representatives. As reported by Minnesota Public Radio, "McCarthy was born in Watkins, a small rural town in central Minnesota. Growing up there, he developed deep religious roots and a lifelong love for baseball. A devout Roman Catholic, he studied briefly to become a monk. He graduated in 1935 from St. John's University in Collegeville, where he majored in English. He later earned a master's degree in sociology from the University of Minnesota." McCarthy was elected to the Senate in 1958. Ten years later, his opposition to the Vietnam War turned into a crusade to capture the Democratic presidential nomination. He lost, but left a lasting impression on the political scene. Following public service, McCarthy spent many years teaching and lecturing. He was a prolific writer and poet, authoring 30 books, including A Colony of the World The United States Today in which he discusses foreign and military policy along with immigration policy. He describes immigration as "the arrival of large numbers of people who impose their current values and language on the pre-existing society" defining "the current wave of immigration as a colonizing force on the United States." Senator McCarthy was a longtime member of the Board of Advisors of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Executive Director Dan Stein, in a memorial in FAIR's latest newsletter, describes him as "always friendly, witty and outgoing, he would often drop into my office unannounced just to chat about the wide range of subjects on his mind more often than not the need for organic reform of the nation's democratic system. Clever, literate, humble and full of humor, Gene was never content with the status quo. He was a reformer's reformer the true citizen politician. ... As an original co-sponsor of the Immigration Act of 1965, he was willing to admit the Senate had been misled by the Johnson administration. Later, he conceded that this legislation was a mistake. This man of honor worked tirelessly to fix it. He stood as a beacon of leadership willing to speak out for positive change in the nation's immigration system. He loved and respected FAIR; we all loved and respected him." The wider circle of activists and writers for The Social Contract always enjoyed their contacts with the affable Senator McCarthy, and he inspired us to continue our efforts to educate the public.

About the author

Robert Kyser is managing editor of The Social Contract.