Remembering Those Who Left Us In 2012

Dec 24, 2012
Originally published on March 25, 2013 1:43 pm

In political terms, 2012 was not the greatest of years. We witnessed an ugly, personal, petty, and often childish presidential election. Living in a "battleground" or "swing" state often meant being bombarded 24/7 by an incessant barrage of negative campaign commercials. And just as we were finally emerging from the campaign, we ended the year with an unfathomable tragedy, the gunning down of 20 children at an elementary school in Connecticut.

But before we enter the new year with new dread, it's time to stop and remember those voices in the world of politics we lost. The list includes George McGovern, whose unlikely battle for the Democratic presidential nomination led him to become his party's standard bearer for 1972, only to go down in a monumental landslide. South Dakota lost two other political giants as well: Republicans Bill Janklow and Jim Abdnor. Arlen Specter was a Democrat turned Republican turned Democrat who became an icon in Pennsylvania political lore. Donald Payne was New Jersey's first African-American member of Congress and served as head of the Congressional Black Caucus. New Hampshire's Warren Rudman had a relatively short tenure in the Senate but he made up for it with a strong effort at bipartisanship and comity. (And the guy he unseated in 1980, John Durkin, was a part of one of the most contested contests in history.) And then there was Daniel Inouye, whose 50 years representing his beloved Hawaii made him the second longest serving senator in history.

Presented here is a chronological list of those who died this year. It doesn't claim to be complete, but it includes many of those who made our lives more interesting and the world a better place.

Ed Jenkins, 78, who served 16 years in the House as a conservative Democrat from Georgia (1977-92), who famously took on Col. Oliver North during the 1987 Iran-Contra congressional hearings and who was defeated by fellow Democrat Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) in a 1989 bid to become majority leader. He retired in 1992. (Jan. 1)

Gatewood Galbraith, 64, a lawyer who ran for governor of Kentucky five times, twice as a Democrat and thrice as an independent or third party candidate, never coming close to victory. He was an early supporter of the legalization of marijuana. (Jan. 3)

Charles Bailey, 82, a co-author of the cold war novel "Seven Days in May" who also served as editor for the Minneapolis Tribune in the 1970s and later as the Washington editor for NPR. (Jan. 3)

Tony Blankley, 63, the press secretary to House Speaker Newt Gingrich from 1990-97 who later became an editor and columnist for the Washington Times. (Jan. 7)

Alex DeCroce, 75, the Republican minority leader of the New Jersey state Assembly who was instrumental in getting Gov. Chris Christie into politics. (Jan. 9)

William Janklow, 72, a larger-than-life Republican from South Dakota who served as governor and the state's House member, and whose political career came to an end after he killed a motorcyclist while speeding. Elected attorney general in 1974, he won the first of his four gubernatorial terms in '78. Term limited in 1986, he challenged fellow Republican Jim Abdnor for his Senate seat but lost in the primary. Undeterred, he returned for another gov. career in 1994. The incumbent Republican, George Mickelson, had died in a plane crash in 1993, and he was succeeded by his lt. gov., Walter Miller. But Janklow took Miller on in the 1994 GOP gov. primary and beat him convincingly. Once again term limited, he ran for the state's lone House seat in 2002, which was being vacated by Senate hopeful John Thune. Janklow walloped Larry Pressler, the former senator, in the GOP primary, and outlasted Democrat Stephanie Herseth in the general. In August of 2003, Janklow, who relished a reputation that he often drove too fast, went through a stop sign and killed a motorcyclist. Convicted of second degree manslaughter, Janklow resigned from the House the following January, and Herseth went on to win the June 2004 special election. (Jan. 12)

Richard Threlkeld, 74, a longtime correspondent for CBS and ABC who covered, among other things, the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968. (Jan. 13)

Ed Derwinski, 85, a longtime GOP congressman from Chicago's South Side who was the nation's first Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Derwinski, a state rep at the time, became his party's nominee for Congress in 1958 following the August death of Rep. William McVey (R). He won and, at the age of 32, was one of the youngest members of the new 86th Congress – the youngest was fellow Illinoisan freshman Dan Rostenkowski (D), who was 30. Derwinski's tenure in the House ended in 1982, when redistricting put him in the same CD as his close friend, fellow Republican George O'Brien; Derwinski lost the primary 52-48. Popular in American Legion halls throughout his district, he became the senior President Bush's choice as V.A. Secretary in 1989. (Jan. 15)

Hulett Smith, 93, a West Virginia Democrat elected governor in 1964 under whose tenure the state's death penalty law was abolished and environmental regulations were put in place. (Jan. 15)

J. Joseph Garrahy, 81, a Democratic governor of Rhode Island who served from 1977 until his retirement in 1984. Immensely popular in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, Garrahy won a second term in 1978 over future governor Lincoln Almond, and a third term two years later over Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci; both elections were landslide victories. (Jan. 24)

Kevin White, 82, who served four terms as mayor of Boston during the city's long racial tension over school busing. First elected in 1967 over busing opponent Louise Day Hicks, he helped keep calm a city not known for welcoming desegregation in its schools or neighborhoods. He was also the Democratic gov. nominee in 1970 (running mate: Michael Dukakis), but lost badly to GOP incumbent Francis Sargent. He was thought to be on George McGovern's V.P. short list in 1972. With members of his administration caught up in scandal, the economy crumbling and his popularity tumbling, White didn't seek a fifth term in 1983. (Jan. 27)

Jim Lloyd, 89, a California Democrat who unseated GOP Rep. Victor Veysey in the Watergate election year of 1974 and held for three terms until falling to Republican challenger David Dreier in 1980. (Feb. 2)

Robert Daniel, 75, a five-term Republican from Virginia who served in the House from 1972, when he won an open Democratic seat, until 1982, when he was defeated by Norm Sisisky (D). (Feb. 4)

Irving Swanson, 99, who as the House of Representatives' reading clerk took the roll call when the chamber voted to declare war on Japan in 1941 (as well as Germany and Italy) and who read into the Congressional Record the message of Japan's surrender in 1945. (Feb. 13)

Harry McPherson, 82, a top aide, adviser and confidant to President Lyndon Johnson who later became a prominent D.C. lobbyist. (Feb. 16)

Katie Hall, 73, the first African-American House member from Indiana who was a prime sponsor of the legislation that established a national holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hall won a special election in 1982 following the death of Rep. Adam Benjamin (D), and almost immediately focused on a holiday honoring King. Her career was cut short in 2003, when she got caught up in corruption charges — she plead guilty to mail fraud — and was sentenced to house arrest. She was defeated in the 1984 Democratic primary by Peter Visclosky, who still serves. (Feb. 20)

William Raggio, 85, the 1970 GOP Senate nominee in Nevada, where he lost to Democratic incumbent Howard Cannon, and who then went on to become the longest-serving member of the state Senate, from 1972 until his retirement in 2010. (Feb. 24)

Andrew Breitbart, 43, a rightwing blogger, commentator and provocateur best known for putting undercover videos on the Internet to embarrass and discredit liberals and the mainstream media. Among his targets were ACORN, the community organizing group, and then-Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who resigned his House seat following the Breitbart-inspired release of sexually explicit photos Weiner sent to various women. (March 1)

George Firestone, 80, a Democrat who served as Florida's Secretary of State from 1979 until his resignation in 1987. (March 2)

Steve Bridges, 48, an entertainer known for impersonating President George W. Bush. (March 3)

Rep. Donald Payne, 77, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and the first African-American elected to Congress from New Jersey. After two unsuccessful primary challenges to Rep. Peter Rodino (D), who headed up the House Judiciary Committee, Payne was elected in 1988 when Rodino retired. During his years in Congress he worked on famine relief to Africa and health-related legislation. His seat was taken in November by his son, Donald Jr., a member of the Newark city council. (March 6)

Thomas Puccio, 67, who as a federal prosecutor helped convict Sen. Harrison Williams (D-N.J.) and several House members during the 1980 Abscam scandal. (March 12)

Ted Strickland, 79, who was briefly lt. gov. of Colorado but lost in his bid for a full term in 1974, and lost twice more as the Republican nominee for governor in 1978 (when he lost to Dem incumbent Dick Lamm) and 1986 (when he lost to Roy Romer). (March 14)

Henry Ruth, 80, who as Watergate special prosecutor helped lead the investigation into and ultimate resignation of President Richard Nixon. (March 16)

Priscilla Buckley, 90, the sister of the late William F. Buckley Jr. and a leading conservative force who was the longtime managing editor of National Review. (March 25)

Len Blaylock, 93, the GOP nominee for governor of Arkansas in 1972, when he lost in a landslide to Democratic incumbent Dale Bumpers. (March 25)

Frank Strickler, 92, a Washington attorney who represented Nixon aides H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichmann during the Watergate scandal. (March 29)

Bernard Rapoport, 94, a millionaire patron of Democratic politicians who helped found the Texas Observer, a liberal magazine. (April 5)

Mike Wallace, 93, one of the nation's foremost TV news interrogators during his decades on CBS' "60 Minutes." In 1968 he was offered, but turned down, the job as Richard Nixon's press secretary. (April 7)

J. Quinn Brisben, 77, the Socialist Party USA's presidential nominee in 1992 who was also the party's candidate for vice president in 1976. (April 17)

Charles Colson, 80, a special counsel to President Richard Nixon, practitioner of political hardball and one of the architects of the administration's "dirty tricks" unit who went to prison in the wake of the Watergate scandal. It was Colson who hired Howard Hunt, who led the Watergate break-in in June of 1972; Colson himself went to jail on obstruction of justice charges. Upon his release, he became "born again" and dedicated his life to religious life and Christian redemption. (April 21)

Nicholas Katzenbach, 90, who as deputy attorney general during the Kennedy administration confronted Alabama Gov. George Wallace in June 1963 as Wallace stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama to block two black students from registering; Wallace backed down without any outbreak of violence. He later served as attorney general in the Johnson administration. (May 8)

James Abdnor, 89, a South Dakota Republican who ousted George McGovern from the Senate in 1980 but who himself was defeated six years later by Thomas Daschle. A former state senator and lt. gov, Abdnor was elected to the House in 1972, replacing Jim Abourezk (D), who was running for the Senate. In 1980, a big conservative year, he easily defeated the liberal McGovern, the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, by nearly 20 points. In 1986 he had to fend off a fierce primary challenge by GOP Gov. Bill Janklow, who insisted Abdnor was too weak a candidate to win a second term. The party split hurt Abdnor in November, as he fell to Daschle 52-48. (May 16)

William Wampler, 86, who had two runs as a Republican congressman from Virginia. He was first elected in 1952 but was defeated two years later. He returned to the House in 1966, knocking off Democratic incumbent Pat Jennings, the man who unseated him in '54. He served until 1982, when he was defeated by Rick Boucher (D) by just over 1,000 votes. (May 23)

T. Garry Buckley, 89, who became lt. gov. of Vermont even though he lost the election in 1976. Because no candidate received a majority of the vote in the three-way race — Buckley even trailed his Democratic opponent — the election went to the state legislature, which was Republican controlled and which chose Buckley. As LG, he often clashed with Gov. Richard Snelling, a fellow Republican. In 1978, he lost his bid for renomination in the primary to Peter Smith, later a member of Congress. In 1980 he finished a weak fourth in his bid for the GOP Senate nomination. (May 23)

Alice Kryzan, 63, an environmental attorney and the Democratic nominee for Congress in New York's 26th CD in 2008, when she lost to Republican Chris Lee. (June 2)

Norman Lent, 81, a moderate Republican from New York's Long Island who served 11 terms in the House. He was first elected to Congress in a memorable 1970 campaign, defeating one-term Democratic incumbent Allard Lowenstein in which the Vietnam War played a huge role. In Congress, Lent was a leading voice in shaping environmental legislation, an issue he focused on until his retirement in 1982. (June 11)

John Caulfield, 83, the chief of security during the Richard Nixon's 1968 campaign who was said to be responsible for some of the administration's "dirty tricks" that preceded the 1972 Watergate break-in. (June 17)

Norbert Tiemann, 87, a Nebraska Republican who served one term as governor, and whose support for higher taxes contributed to his defeat in 1970. In 1966 he won the governorship over Lt. Gov. Phil Sorensen, the brother of former JFK aide Ted Sorensen. He supported a combination of a sales-income tax system that, while keeping the state solvent, drew a strong GOP primary opponent in 1970. Bloodied by the close primary challenge, he lost to Democrat Jim Exon in November by ten points. (June 19)

Judy Agnew, 91, wife of the late Vice President Spiro Agnew. (June 20)

Edward Costikyan, 87, a Democratic Party bigwig in New York who advised governors and mayors and who began his long career in politics by helping oust Tammany Hall boss Carmine DeSapio in 1961. He was briefly a candidate for mayor of NYC in 1977 but later withdrew and backed ultimate winner Ed Koch. (June 22)

Julian Goodman, 90, who while working for NBC News produced the second Kennedy-Nixon debate in 1960 and later rose to head the network, where he famously sparred with members of the Nixon administration. (July 2)

Richard Tonry, 77, a Louisiana Democrat who served only four months of his congressional term before resigning amid charges he bought votes to win his party's primary. In 1976 he won an open seat, defeating Republican Bob Livingston, but shortly afterwards federal investigators uncovered his vote-buying scheme. He resigned his seat and went to prison, and was succeeded in the House by Livingston, who won a special 1977 election. (July 3)

Andy Griffith, 86, a folksy TV actor who behind the scenes was a Democratic Party force in North Carolina, refusing however to ever jump into the political arena as a candidate. (July 3)

Peter Kyros, 86, a four-term Democratic member of the House from Maine. In 1966, a strong Republican year, he won an open GOP House seat, and in 1974, a huge Democratic year, he was narrowly unseated by David Emery (R). (July 10)

William Raspberry, 76, a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist for the Washington Post who wrote extensively on race relations. (July 17)

Fioravante (Fred) Perrotta, 80, who unsuccessfully ran for New York City Comptroller in 1969 on the ticket led by Mayor John Lindsay, who lost that year's GOP primary but went on to win re-election as a Liberal and Independent. (July 20)

Gene Stipe, 85, an Oklahoma Democrat who held one of the longest continuous serving record for any state senator (1957-2003) and who finished third in the 1978 Dem primary for U.S. senator, won by David Boren. In 2003, involved in a campaign finance scandal, he resigned from office (July 21).

Alexander Cockburn, 71, the leftwing journalist who wrote for The Village Voice and The Nation. (July 21)

Patton Echols, 86, the Republican nominee for attorney general of Virginia in 1973. (July 26)

Gore Vidal, 86, the great American writer and novelist who merits mention in this column for his two campaigns – running as the Democratic nominee for an upstate New York House seat in 1960, where he lost to GOP incumbent J. Ernest Wharton, and in the Democratic primary for the Senate in California in 1982, where he finished second to Gov. Jerry Brown. Vidal, a leftwinger, also got into a memorable on-air battle with rightwinger William F. Buckley Jr. when both were analysts covering the 1968 Democratic convention for ABC News. (July 31)

Paul McCracken, 96, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Nixon. (Aug. 3)

R. Peter Straus, 89, a former director of the Voice of America under President Carter who helped run Bobby Kennedy's 1964 Senate campaign in New York and was instrumental in changing the way legislative districts were drawn. After the death of his first wife, he married Marcia Lewis – mother of Monica Lewinsky – in 1998. (Aug. 6)

Raymond Harding, 77, who as head of New York's Liberal Party for decades wielded far more power than his party warranted. It was long said the Liberal Party was neither liberal nor a party, but Harding – and his predecessor, Alex Rose – made tremendous use of its influence, with politicians of both parties seeking his party's position on the ballot. Ultimately, the party lost its ballot line in 2002 and in 2009 Harding was caught up in a corruption scandal that sent state Comptroller Alan Hevesi (D) to prison. (Aug. 9)

James Naughton, 73, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former White House and national correspondent for the New York Times during the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations, who later served as a senior editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer. (Aug. 11)

Nellie Gray, 88, who in 1974 began the annual March for Life anti-abortion demonstration in Washington, held each January on the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. (Aug. 13?)

Aubrey Dunn, 84, a conservative Democratic former state senator from New Mexico who lost his party's gov. primary for governor in 1982 to Toney Anaya in what was considered one of the dirtiest contests in state history. (Aug. 23)

George Gunther, 92, a maverick Connecticut Republican who was the longest serving state senator (1967-2006) in state history. (Aug. 26)

Donald Tewes, 96, a Wisconsin Republican who served one term in the House before losing a 1958 re-election bid to Robert Kastenmeier (D), whom he defeated two years prior. Tewes also lost the 1960 rubber match. (Aug. 29)

Charlie Rose, 73, a champion of tobacco interests during his 24 years in the House as a Democrat from North Carolina. He won an open seat in 1972 and during his tenure battled efforts to combat anti-smoking legislation. He rose to become chair of the House Administration Committee but also was under an ethics cloud later in his career over campaign funds. In 1994, after the Republican won control of the House, Rose challenged Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) in the race for minority leader, a contest he lost decisively. He retired in 1996. (Sept. 3)

Bob Gammage, 74, a Texas Democrat who lost to, defeated, and lost again to Ron Paul in three memorable congressional contests. In 1975, Rep. Bob Casey, a conservative Democrat, resigned to join the Federal Maritime Agency. In a big surprise, Paul beat Gammage, then a state senator, in the Feb. 1976 special election. Gammage returned the favor in November, beating Paul by 236 votes, but Paul won the 1978 rubber match. A former judge, Gammage came out of retirement in 2006 but lost his party's gov. primary to Rep. Chris Bell, who went on to lose the general to GOP Gov. Rick Perry. (Sept. 10)

Russell Train, 92, one of the country's leading conservationists who became the first chair of the Council of Environmental Quality in 1970 and headed up the EPA under President Nixon. A Republican, he was later the first president of the World Wildlife Fund's American chapter. (Sept. 17)

Henry Champ, 75, who covered politics and Congress as a journalist with NBC News and who later returned to his native Canada and the CBC. (Sept. 23)

Sam Steiger, 83, a colorful and sometimes outlandish Republican member of the House from Arizona who served five terms. In 1966, on his second try, he ousted Rep. George Senner (D). He served until 1976, when he ran for the Senate seat being vacated by fellow Republican Paul Fannin. But a bitter primary battle with Rep. John Conlan – one filled with allegations of anti-Semitism and corruption – damaged Steiger's chances in the general election, where he was defeated by Democrat Dennis DeConcini. He also ran for governor as a Libertarian in 1982 and lost the GOP gov. primary in 1990. And he served one term as mayor of Prescott. (Sept. 26)

Eugene Genovese, 82, who as a Marxist professor at Rutgers Univ. in 1965 said he welcomed a Viet Cong victory in Vietnam – which became an issue in the N.J. gov. race that year – but who later in life became a conservative Catholic. (Sept. 26)

John Silber, 86, a controversial and cantankerous president of Boston University whose one stab at elective politics came in 1990, when he was the Democratic nominee for governor of Massachusetts and narrowly lost to Republican Bill Weld. (Sept. 27)

Arthur O. Sulzberger, 86, the publisher of the New York Times who led the newspaper into the modern age and whose decision to publish the "Pentagon Papers," a classified history of the Vietnam War, enraged President Nixon and led to a landmark court decision. (Sept. 29)

Barry Commoner, 95, an environmental and anti-nuclear activist who was the presidential nominee of the Citizens Party in 1980. (Sept. 30)

Joe Meyer, 71, the state Treasurer of Wyoming since 2007, who previously served as attorney general and secretary of state. (Oct. 6)

Mervyn Dymally, 86, who was the first black elected to California's state assembly, state senate and lt. gov.; he also served in the House. First elected to the Assembly in 1962 and then the Senate four years later, he was elected lt. gov. in 1974, winning in the Democratic sweep that also pulled in Jerry Brown as governor. But four years later, amid rumors of corruption and imminent indictment (which never came), Dymally was unseated by Republican Mike Curb. In 1980, Rep. Charles Wilson, a white Democrat representing parts of Los Angeles County that included Compton, was under investigation for his role in a South Korean bribery scandal. Wilson faced both Dymally and former Rep. Mark Hannaford in the primary, which was won by Dymally (Wilson finished third). Dymally kept the seat until his retirement in 1992. In 2002, he returned to the same Assembly seat he occupied in the 1960s. (Oct. 7)

Sam Gibbons, 92, a Florida Democrat who served 17 terms in the House and reached the chairmanship, albeit briefly, of the Ways and Means Committee. First elected to Congress in 1962, he was a leader in crafting anti-poverty legislation but also voted against various civil rights bills early in his career. He made an ill-advised challenge Rep. Tip O'Neill (D-Mass.) for majority leader in 1973, a move that basically isolated him from attaining true power. Long the number two on Ways & Means to chairman Dan Rostenkowski, he moved up after the Illinois Democrat was indicted in June 1994 on corruption charges. But his stay as chairman didn't last long, as the GOP took control of the House that November. He retired in 1996. (Oct. 10)

William Friday, 92, the former president of the University of North Carolina system who rebuffed numerous pleas from Tar Heel State Democrats to run for office, notably the Senate in 1986. (Oct. 12)

Arlen Specter, 82, the longest serving senator in Pennsylvania history who defied and often disappointed members of both political parties, even as he resided in them. Tremendously bright but often prickly and possessing an oversized ego, Specter spent 29 of his 30 years in the Senate as a Republican, where he frustrated conservatives during the 1987 Supreme Court nomination confirmation battle of Robert Bork and angered liberals during the 1991 confirmation battle of Clarence Thomas. Specter was first elected district attorney of Philadelphia on the Republican line in 1965, even though he had been a Democrat. Switching to the Republicans, he was his new party's nominee for mayor two years later but lost to incumbent Democrat James Tate. In 1973 he was ousted as Philly D.A. after two terms. His losing streak was extended in bids for the Senate in 1976 and governor in 1978, losing the respective primaries to John Heinz and Dick Thornburgh. In 1980, with Sen. Dick Schweiker (R) retiring, he finally triumphed, defeating former Pittsburgh Mayor Pete Flaherty. A pro-choice Republican in an increasingly conservative party, he drew the ire of the right with his cross-examining of Robert Bork, President Reagan's ill-fated Supreme Court nominee in 1987. Four years later, his long alliance with feminists became frayed with his relentless questioning of Anita Hill, who accused Bush Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. With many on the left and right less enthused about his candidacy, he struggled to win a third term in 1992. Three years later, in a "what was he possibly thinking" moment, he made a bid for the GOP presidential nomination, but withdrew when he ran out of money, well before the primaries. He relied on endorsements from President Bush and fellow GOP Pa. senator Rick Santorum, a strong conservative, to withstand a 2004 rightwing primary challenge from Rep. Pat Toomey. But as 2010 was approaching, Specter – with his votes for many of President Obama's initiatives – was never going to win another GOP primary against Toomey. So, with encouragement from Obama, he switched to the Democratic Party in 2009. But rank and file Democrats weren't as thrilled with having Specter in their ranks as the White House was, and Specter, hoping for a sixth term, wound up losing the Democratic primary to Rep. Joe Sestak (who wound up losing the general to Toomey). Earlier in his career, he was an attorney on the Warren Commission, which was responsible for uncovering what happened during the assassination of President Kennedy. Specter was a proponent of the "single bullet" theory, that it was one bullet that claimed JFK's life. (Oct. 14)

James Grover, 93, a low-key Republican House member from Long Island who was first elected to Congress in 1962 and served until he was narrowly defeated in 1974 by Democrat Tom Downey. (Oct. 14)

John Durkin, 76, a New Hampshire Democrat who triumphed in one of the most controversial Senate election decisions in recent history. Running against GOP Rep. Louis Wyman in 1974 for the seat being vacated by Sen. Norris Cotton (R), Durkin was initially thought to have lost the race by 355 votes out of more than 222,000 cast. After a recount, it was determined that Durkin won by ten votes. Then, a second recount, conducted by a Republican-majority three-member ballot commission, decided Wyman the victor by two votes. Meanwhile, the Democratic-led U.S. Senate refused to seat Wyman and eventually declared the seat vacant – until both sides agreed to a September 1975 special election, which Durkin won comfortably. In 1980, Durkin was defeated for re-election by Warren Rudman. In 1990 he again tried for the Senate but lost in a landslide to Robert Smith (R). (Oct. 16)

George McGovern, 90, a liberal anti-Vietnam War Democratic senator from conservative South Dakota who took on the Old Guard to win his party's presidential nomination in 1972, only to get crushed in a 49-state landslide loss to President Richard Nixon in November. In 1956, McGovern knocked off GOP Rep. Harold Lovre and won re-election two years later over Gov. (and war hero) Joe Foss. In 1960, he ran for the Senate but was beaten by Republican incumbent Karl Mundt. Two years later, after Sen. Francis Case (R) died, McGovern again sought the Senate, this time narrowly triumphing over Joe Bottum, a former lt. gov. who was appointed as Case's successor. ("McGovern is tops," read his campaign button.) In 1968, the same year he was up for another Senate term, he briefly became a presidential hopeful following the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. In the years after the disastrous Democratic convention, he was a leader in the effort to change the party nominating rules. Taking advantage of same, and running as a full-fledged opponent of the Vietnam War, he stunned the Democratic establishment by winning the presidential nomination on the first ballot. If the '68 convention was utter chaos, the '72 convention wasn't much better, with McGovern accepting the nomination in the early morning hours, well after the TV lights went off, and nominating the ill-fated Thomas Eagleton as his running mate; 17 days later Eagleton withdrew and was replaced by Sargent Shriver. Many Democrats and union leaders refused to get behind McGovern, who lost in a popular- and electoral-vote landslide to Nixon. He won a third Senate term in 1974 but his tenure ended in 1980, when he was clobbered by GOP Congressman Jim Abdnor. McGovern, always popular with the "peace" wing of the Democratic Party, made another bid for the presidential nomination in 1984, but it went nowhere. (Oct. 21)

Russell Means, 72, a Native American activist and leader of the American Indian Movement that occupied Wounded Knee, S.D., in a famous 1973 protest. He sought the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination in 1988 but lost out to former GOP Rep. Ron Paul. In 2002 he ran an independent campaign for governor of New Mexico. (Oct. 22)

Letitia Baldrige, 86, the social secretary to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, later becoming an authority on etiquette. (Oct. 29)

John Reed, 91, a Republican who during his seven years as governor of Maine worked to improve the state's education system. On Dec. 30, 1959, Gov. Clinton Clausen (D) died in his sleep; Reed, as president of the state Senate, automatically succeeded him. He won a special election in 1960 and, in 1962, he was re-elected by fewer than 500 votes. In 1966 he was defeated by Kenneth Curtis, a Democrat. He was later the U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka, first under President Ford and later under President Reagan. (Oct. 31)

David Cornwell, 67, an Indiana Democrat who won an open House seat in 1976 only to lose it two years later to Joel Deckard (R). (Nov. 2)

Joseph Early, 79, whose nine terms as a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts came to an end in 1992 for his involvement in the House banking scandal. He won an open House seat centered around Worcester in 1974 and usually won re-election by overwhelming margins, often running unopposed. But the revelation that he was among those who bounced checks at the House bank cost him his seat in '92, when he lost to Peter Blute (R). (Nov. 9)

Helen Milliken, 89, who as Michigan's First Lady – she was married to Gov. Bill Milliken (R) – was an outspoken advocate for abortion rights and the Equal Rights Amendment. (Nov. 16)

Warren Rudman, 82, a two-term (1981-92) centrist Republican senator from New Hampshire who waged a long and lonely battle to balance the federal budget, including the passage of the Gramm-Rudman Act of 1987, which was designed to limit government spending. In 1980 he unseated Sen. John Durkin (D) and was re-elected six years later, before retiring in '92. He also served on the committee investigating the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987 as well as the Senate Ethics Committee during the Keating Five scandal in 1991, opposed the GOP's alliance with the religious right, and played a major role in the selection of David Souter to the Supreme Court in 1990. (Nov. 19)

David O'B. Martin, 68, a six-term Republican congressman from upstate New York, a strong protector of pet military projects crucial to Fort Drum, located in his district. In his first race, in 1980, he handily defeated former Lt. Gov. Mary Anne Krupsak (D). He retired in 1992. (Nov. 20)

James Hodgson, 96, who in 1970 replaced George Schultz as Secretary of Labor in President Nixon's administration and later served as ambassador to Japan. (Nov. 28)

Jerry Finkelstein, 96, a longtime Democratic powerbroker in NYC who spent freely to get his son, Andrew Stein, elected to various local and citywide offices for two decades beginning in the late 1960s, and who himself ran just once, an unsuccessful bid for state senator in Manhattan in 1942. (Nov. 28)

Jack Brooks, 89, a folksy but powerful Texas Democrat who served on the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment hearings of President Nixon and later chaired the committee until he was shockingly unseated in the 1994 GOP tidal wave. First elected to Congress in 1952, he was close with two fellow Texas Democrats, House Speaker Sam Rayburn and Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson. Brooks was with Johnson in the 1963 Dallas motorcade where President Kennedy was assassinated. In that famous photo of LBJ being sworn in on Air Force One, he is standing behind a grieving Jacqueline Kennedy. In the mid 1950s, he was one of the few Southern Democrats who refused to sign the so-called Southern Manifesto, which called for continuing segregation. In 1974 he helped write articles of impeachment against Nixon. After Rep. Peter Rodino (D-N.J.) retired in 1988, Brooks became chairman of the Judiciary Committee – a position he held until the 1994 elections, when he fell to Republican Steve Stockman after the committee approved a bill that banned assault weapons, even though he himself was considered pro-gun. (Dec. 4)

Jon Kest, 57, a New York community organizer who was one of the founders of the Working Families Party. (Dec. 5)

Doyle Conner, 83, a Florida Democrat who in 1957 became the youngest House speaker (age 28) in state history and then went on to spend 30 years as the state's agriculture commissioner until his retirement in 1990. (Dec. 16)

SEN. DANIEL INOUYE, 88, who has represented Hawaii in Congress as long as it has been a state, and who at the time of his death was the second longest serving senator in history. A highly decorated World War II combat veteran, Inouye was elected to the House in 1959, the year Hawaii became number 50. He served until 1962, when he won the first of nine Senate elections. He was the first Japanese-American to serve in the House or the Senate. Long considered a "conscience" of the Senate who worked with Republicans, he was never known to be a seeker of publicity or personal acclaim. But he played key roles on both the Senate Watergate Committee, in 1973-74, and later on the committee that investigated the Iran-Contra affair. He also gave his party's keynote address at the 1968 Democratic convention. At his death he was the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, a position that now falls to the senior member of the majority party, Pat Leahy of Vermont. (Dec. 17)

Frank Macchiarola, widely considered to be one of the most effective school chancellors in New York City history and who finished third in the 1989 Democratic primary for NYC comptroller. (Dec. 18)

Robert Bork, 85, whose rejected nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 split the Senate in two, with implications that continue to this day. Bork had long been a controversial figure; as Solicitor General under President Nixon in 1973, he fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox when others, such as the Attorney General, decided to resign instead. As a federal appeals court judge, he was seen as a "strict constructionist" and a strong conservative, and when he was nominated by President Reagan in '87, to succeed the retiring Lewis Powell, he did not hide his philosophy. Conservatives welcomed the nomination; liberals detested it, with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) famously saying, "Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions," and "blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters." Hurting Bork's cause was an article he wrote for the New Republic in 1963 when he argued against the public accommodations sections of the proposed 1964 Civil Rights Act that was aimed at integrating restaurants. The Senate, as well as the nation, was divided over the nomination. The debate became unusually personal and political; ultimately, the Senate defeated the nomination by a vote of 58-42. Many trace the total lack of comity in the Senate today to the Bork hearings. (Dec. 19)

Bill McBride, 67, a Florida attorney and the Democratic nominee for governor in 2002, when he lost to incumbent Republican Jeb Bush. McBride had defeated former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno in the Dem primary. His wife, Alex Sink, was the 2010 Dem gov. nominee. (Dec. 22)

Click here for my compilation of 2011 deaths.

2010 deaths.

2009 deaths.

2008 deaths.

2007 deaths.

2006 deaths.

2005 deaths.

2004 deaths.

Political Updates. I post periodic political updates during the week — some serious, some not — on Twitter. You can follow me at @kenrudin.

Political Junkie segment on Talk of the Nation. Each Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET, the Political Junkie segment appears on Talk of the Nation (NPR's call-in program), hosted by Neal Conan with me adding color commentary, where you can, sometimes, hear interesting conversation, useless trivia questions and sparkling jokes.

Last week's show focused on the shootings in Connecticut and the politics of gun control, as well as a farewell to Sen. Dan Inouye of Hawaii. You can listen to that segment here:

The week before, the show focused on the surprise resignation of South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and the precarious situation of Susan Rice, at the time thought to be Obama's top pick for secretary of state. That segment can be heard here:

Podcast. There's also a new episode of our weekly podcast, "It's All Politics," up every Thursday. It's hosted by my partner in crime, Ron Elving, and me. Since there was no column last week, here are the links to the last two episodes.

And Don't Forget ScuttleButton. ScuttleButton, America's favorite waste-of-time button puzzle, can usually be found in this spot every Monday or Tuesday. A randomly selected winner will be announced every Wednesday during the Political Junkie segment on NPR's Talk of the Nation. Sure, there's incredible joy in deciphering the answer, but the winner gets not only a Junkie T-shirt but also a 3-1/2-inch Official No-Prize Button! Is this a great country or what??

Last week's winner: Beth Riches of South Bend, Ind.

Mailing list. To receive a weekly email alert about the new column and ScuttleButton puzzle, contact me at politicaljunkie@npr.org.

******* Don't Forget: If you are sending in a question to be used in this column, please include your city and state. *********

This day in campaign history: The New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission, with a 3-2 Republican majority, announces that Rep. Louis Wyman (R) is the winner, by two votes, of the 1974 Senate race to replace the retiring Republican Norris Cotton. After an earlier recount, the Democratic nominee, John Durkin, had been declared the winner by ten votes. Both Wyman and Durkin say the fairest way to decide the matter is to have a runoff election (Dec. 24, 1974). The U.S. Senate will later declare the seat vacant. By the time the candidates agree to another election, in September 1975, Durkin will win easily.

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: politicaljunkie@npr.org

Have a Merry Christmas and a great, safe and Happy New Year! The Political Junkie column, along with the delightful ScuttleButton puzzle, return the week of Jan. 7, 2013.

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