Former Sen. Thomas Eagleton had the last word at his own funeral Saturday, urging his friends and family in a farewell letter to “go forth in love and peace — be kind to dogs — and vote Democratic.”
Eagleton, who resigned as George McGovern’s vice presidential nominee in 1972 after it was revealed he had been hospitalized for depression, had written the two-page, single-space, typewritten farewell months ago. He died March 4 at age 77.
Eagleton posthumously told the more than 1,200 family members, friends and political leaders at his funeral Mass that he was shaped by a saintly mother, a “magnificent trial lawyer” father, and early exposure to wide-ranging political views, from Socialists to racist preachers.
The former Navy man said he was most proud of introducing the amendment that ended the Vietnam War, and his original version of the War Powers Act to re-establish shared war powers of the president and Congress. He later refused to sign the watered-down version.
He said he didn’t miss the Senate once he left it, except for the debate on the “horrible, disastrous Iraq War that ... will go down in American history as one of our greatest blunders ... and as a curse to our Constitution when Attorney General John Ashcroft attempted to put a democratic face on torture.”
A Roman Catholic, he criticized the church’s veer to the right, in which “we seem to have merged God’s power into political power.”
Remembered as eccentric
The crowd of dignitaries at St. Francis Xavier College Church at Saint Louis University included Sens. Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, and Dick Durbin; and former Sens. John Danforth, Walter Mondale and Dale Bumpers.
“I join with everyone here in mourning this loss,” Kennedy said. “His was a life well lived. He set the pattern for what a senator should be.”
Eagleton was remembered for his hearty belly laugh, his eccentricity and sense of humor, his generosity, and the courage to take an unpopular stand.
Friend Louis Susman said Eagleton easily could have won a fourth term in the Senate, but retired from an institution that had been “ruined by the money chase,” and become too partisan.
He called Eagleton a “giver, not a taker, who never wanted anything in return except friendship.”