How badly did HHH want to be President?

As I write this book its been important to put the times in context. Governor Rudy Perpich was a generation past Humphrey and not particularly in awe of him. I’d always assumed the opposite. A lot of people didn’t take Humphrey seriously at the time. His nickname, “the Happy Warrior” is both fond and dismissive. Certainly he didn’t have LBJ’s famous streak of cruelty. But as this article points out HHH would do what he had to hold his place in line for the Presidency:

“Historians later wrote that Johnson told Hubert Humphrey to “crush the rebellion” and get the MFDP off the front pages, or Humphrey could give up on the idea of ever becoming vice-president. Humphrey instructed fellow Minnesotan and future Vice President Walter Mondale to “suppress the MFDP by any means necessary” and this was accomplished through secret meetings, and false statements, and by using information on the MFDP’s strategy gathered from FBI informants.

Johnson, Humphrey, and Mondale finally offered MFDP to seat two at-large delegates to be selected by Johnson (to ensure Humphrey that Hamer would not be selected). MFDP delegates refused the compromise. Humphrey reportedly pleaded with Hamer (whom he reportedly found “distasteful” because she was poor and uneducated) to accept the compromise so he could become vice president and push civil rights.

Mississippian Rev. Ed King, also a delegate, years later told how Hamer expressed no sympathy for Humphrey’s dilemma:

‘Senator Humphrey. I know lots of people in Mississippi who have lost their jobs for trying to register to vote. I had to leave the plantation where I worked in Sunflower County. Now if you lose this job of vice president because you do what is right, because you help the MFDP, everything will be all right. God will take care of you. But if you take it this way, why, you will never be able to do any good for civil rights, for poor people, for peace, or any of those things you talk about.'”

Perhaps, asĀ Fannie Lou Hamer predicted, it was just this kind of pusillanimousness that cost HHH the Presidency. He also stuck with LBJ on Vietnam like glue and lost his race with Nixon in 1968. In the process he lost the loyalty of Minnesota Democrats like Rudy Perpich. Further, hisĀ better than decade-long ambition for the presidency may also explain much about the events which I’ll be writing about.