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With the office of Vice President vacant since the assassination of President Kennedy nine months before, the question of who would fill it was paramount on the minds of many pundits and observers. It had been rumored that the President was going to choose his predecessor’s brother-in-law Sargent Shriver but that Robert F. Kennedy had nixed this idea, claiming that he wasn’t a real Kennedy and it would be impolitic to choose him. The Attorney General made it known that he deserved the second spot instead, but then President Johnson announced that sitting Cabinet members would not be under consideration.
Speculation centered on Senate Majority Whip Hubert H. Humphrey, a perennial candidate who had run either one of the two spots in every election since 1952, and was a champion of civil rights. On the second day of the convention, LBJ invited Humphrey and Connecticut Senator Thomas Dodd to the White House for an extended job interview. After a long wait, the President announced that his choice was Humphrey, who was nominated by voice vote the following day.
As the 1964 presidential campaign began, Humphrey made clear his interest in becoming Lyndon Johnson’s running mate. At the 1964 Democratic National Convention, Johnson kept the three likely vice-presidential candidates, Connecticut Senator Thomas Dodd, fellow Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy, and Humphrey, as well as the rest of the nation, in suspense before announcing his choice of Humphrey with much fanfare, praising his qualifications at considerable length before announcing his name.
The following day Humphrey’s acceptance speech overshadowed Johnson’s own acceptance address.
Hubert warmed up with a long tribute to the President, then hit his stride as he began a rhythmic jabbing and chopping at Barry Goldwater. “Most Democrats and Republicans in the Senate voted for an $11.5 billion tax cut for American citizens and American business,” he cried, “but not Senator Goldwater. Most Democrats and Republicans in the Senate – in fact four-fifths of the members of his own party – voted for the Civil Rights Act, but not Senator Goldwater.”
Time after time, he capped his indictments with the drumbeat cry: “But not Senator Goldwater!” The delegates caught the cadence and took up the chant. A quizzical smile spread across Humphrey’s face, then turned to a laugh of triumph. Hubert was in fine form. He knew it. The delegates knew it. And no one could deny that Hubert Humphrey would be a formidable political antagonist in the weeks ahead.
In addition to Humphrey’s Acceptance speech, just prior is a tribute to the late Eleanor Roosevelt, given by Adlai Stevenson. One hour from the last day of the Democratic Convention, 1964.