- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 4, 2007

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Former Sen. Thomas Eagleton, who resigned as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee in 1972 after it was revealed he had been hospitalized for depression, died yesterday. He was 77.

The cause of death was a combination of heart, respiratory and other problems, his family said. Mr. Eagleton had suffered from a variety of illnesses and ailments in recent years.

“Tom Eagleton managed to be a statesman, an intellectual and a man of the people all at the same time,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, said in a statement. “At many times in his career he demonstrated both political and personal courage. He will be an important part of history for generations to come.”

Mr. Eagleton represented Missouri in the Senate from December 1968 to January 1987. He was George McGovern’s vice-presidential nominee in 1972, but dropped out after it was revealed that he had been hospitalized for psychiatric treatment and had twice undergone electroshock therapy for depression. Mr. McGovern chose Sargent Shriver to replace Mr. Eagleton and was crushed by President Nixon in the general election.

Former Sen. John Danforth, a Republican, served alongside Mr. Eagleton for 10 years and was his friend for four decades despite their political differences.

“Tom Eagleton was an outstanding public servant throughout his career in elective politics and beyond,” Mr. Danforth said in a statement. “As a United States senator, he was highly respected on both sides of the aisle. He was a person of high principle and consistent good humor.”

Mr. Eagleton was born in St. Louis in 1929, the son of noted civil trial lawyer Mark Eagleton, who once ran unsuccessfully for mayor and encouraged his son’s interest in politics. The younger Mr. Eagleton was elected circuit attorney at age 26 in 1956, the youngest man ever elected to the position.

He was elected Missouri attorney general in 1960 and lieutenant governor in 1964 before winning election to the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Eagleton was considered liberal, but he criticized busing to achieve school desegregation and, as a practicing Roman Catholic, strongly opposed abortion. But in recent years, he went against the church on life issues. He was co-chairman for the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, which backed a successful state constitutional amendment in November guaranteeing that all federally allowed stem-cell research also can occur in Missouri.

He told the Associated Press in 2003 that he had no regrets over the 1972 flap.

“Being vice president ain’t all that much,” he said. “My ambition, since my senior year in high school, was to be a senator. Not everybody achieves their ambition. I got to the level that I really had no great right to claim.”

He said he had not had any symptoms of depression for years and “didn’t think it was all that big a deal.”

Mr. Eagleton is survived by his wife, Barbara Ann Smith Eagleton, whom he married in 1956, a son and a daughter.


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