I’m always intrigued about how major political leaders or celebrities, people who were major figures in their day, are almost completely forgotten within a few decades. From a US political point of view, Hubert Humphrey tops the list of forgotten giants. From the late 1950s until the mid 1970s, it was almost impossible to draw up a list of possible presidental contenders without having Humphrey’s name near the top of the list, and not in a Herman Cain five minutes of fame kind of way, either.
From his entry into national politics as the barnstorming liberal pro-civil rights Mayor of Minneapolis, HHH became the standard bearer for the liberal wing of the party. He lectured the 1948 Democratic convention on civil rights for blacks, at a time when the Democratic party still had large numbers of members with pictures of Jefferson Davis on the walls.
As a US senator, he emerged as a leader of the party, losing to JFK for the party nomination in 1960, and eventually serving as Vice President to Lyndon Johnson and then amazingly getting re-elected to the Senate after losing to Nixon in 1968.
Nicknamed “The Happy Warrior”, Humphrey combined liberal beliefs with solid political nous (he was very popular with the unions, when unions actually mattered in US politics) and came close to beating Nixon in 1968, losing by a mere 1% point despite being Vice President of one of the most hated US administrations ever. Even in the 1970s, he was a serious contender for president, until he discovered that he had terminal cancer. He handled that with class too, and spent his last months calling all his old allies and opponents (including now disgraced Nixon) to say goodbye and invite them to his funeral.