How Sioux Falls marked the death of George McGovern

South Dakota war hero, senator, presidential candidate and world hunger relief advocate George McGovern passed away Sunday at age 90.

Here’s how his hometown paper, the Argus Leader of Sioux Falls, played the story today on page one.



Dominating the front: A vintage file photo of McGovern as he looked 41 years ago.

Nathan Groepper — creative director of the Gannett Design Studio in Des Moines, where the Argus Leader is produced — sends along that front as well as a 10-page special section, telling us by email:

The pages were designed by Karla Brown-Garcia and myself.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any crazy stories about how the pages came together. It was a fairly smooth process. …

The McGovern package was started months ago (picking photos, the “chapter” ideas, etc.). But we did the majority of the heavy lifting on the presentation side of things last week, as soon as we heard the news he was entering hospice. (McGovern had been making public appearances recently, so we thought we had some time.) The way the content was organized and the flexibility of the editors in Sioux Falls helped the pages come together relatively quickly. We had the special section finished by Thursday of last week.

The cover shot on the front of the commemorative sections is much more recent than the one on A1.

The section is split into five “chapters.” An overview occupies pages two and three, led by a staff photo by Elisha Page of McGovern speaking at a campaign rally for President Barack Obama in 2008. Atop page three is an enormous shot of a McGovern for president rally in 1972.

The opening essay was written by Argus Leader staffer Jonathan Ellis. An illustrated timeline of McGovern’s life and career fills the bottom of both pages.

Chapter One — also by Ellis — begins on page four, kicked off with an AP file photo of young Congressman McGovern campaigning with presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy. The theme of that page: The state of the Democratic party in the 1960s and the impact a young McGovern had on liberalism of that era and on building the party in his state.

Chapter Two — written by Chuck Raasch of USA Today — begins on page five. It covers McGovern’s successful run for the 1972 presidential nomination. An outstanding McGovern quote buried deep on this page:

Every senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave.

The chapter continues on page six, with plenty of wire art of campaign rallies around the country.

Chapter Three — “the Slide to Defeat” — is also by Raasch and covers the fall of the Democratic party in the latter half of the 1970s and the loss of McGovern’s senate seat with the Reagan Revolution in 1980. A key McGovern quote from the day after that election, as recounted by Raasch:

Basically, this whole country just took a drastic swing to the right. I’m just dazed by the whole thing.

Another great bit:

The clincher against McGovern came in mid-October. Following a long-held political tradition in South Dakota, McGovern went pheasant hunting. But he was refused an in-state hunting license by a young clerk because he could not produce a South Dakota driver’s license. All of [then-Rep. James] Abdnor claims that McGovern had forgotten his roots coalesced around that rite.

“It was huge,” [said Keith Jensen, Abdnor's campaign manager]. “I said, ‘You have just proven our point.’”

In chapter four — “the Rebuilding” — Argus Leader staffer Steve Young recounts the years after McGovern’s departure from the senate. He threw himself into various liberal political causes and, in 1998, President Bill Clinton appointed him U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture. The large AP file photo on page eight shows McGovern greeting Clinton at Richard Nixon’s funeral in 1994.

That appointment took McGovern to Rome for several years. That’s where McGovern is petting his dog in the lead picture on page nine. The fifth and final chapter — “Elder Statesman,” written by Argus Leader staffer Jill Callison — recounts the closing years of McGovern’s life.

The back page contains an old McGovern campaign button and a particularly well-chosen quote from Bill Clinton.

Average circulation of the Argus Leader is 32,192.

Find all the stories mentioned here — plus more from the Argus Leader — here.

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