WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. Senator George McGovern, a leading Democratic liberal whose anti-Vietnam War stance cost him the 1972 presidential race against Republican Richard Nixon, died on Sunday at the age of 90, his family said.
* McGovern, who grew up in South Dakota, volunteered for military service at age 19 and went on 35 combat missions in World War Two as pilot of a bomber named the Dakota Queen. He won the Distinguished Flying Cross for safely landing the plane on an island in the Adriatic after two of its four engines had been knocked out.
* McGovern won only 37.5 percent of the popular vote in the 1972 election, compared to incumbent president Richard Nixon’s 60.7 percent. Nixon won the Electoral College vote, 520-17, in one of the most lopsided presidential elections in U.S. history.
* In that election, McGovern won the vote only in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. Later as Nixon’s presidency unraveled in the Watergate scandal, bumper stickers saying “Don’t blame me, I’m from Massachusetts” and buttons saying “Don’t blame me, I voted for McGovern” began to appear.
* McGovern said he moved on from the defeat but 12 years later another defeated Democratic presidential candidate, Walter Mondale, asked him how long it took to get over losing in a landslide. “I’ll let you know when I get there,” McGovern replied.
* In addition to his 1972 campaign, McGovern had been a presidential candidate in 1968 after the assassination of front-runner Robert F. Kennedy but lost the Democratic nomination to Hubert Humphrey. He also had a short-lived presidential run in 1984.
* McGovern served in the U.S. Senate from 1963 to 1981, when he was defeated by a Republican in the party’s 1980 sweep when Ronald Reagan won the White House. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1957 to 1961.
* Having grown up in a farming state, McGovern had a long-running interest the world food supply and fighting hunger. President John F. Kennedy chose him to head the domestic-international Food for Peace program in 1961 and in 1998 President Bill Clinton named him U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture. He and Republican Bob Dole, another former senator and unsuccessful presidential candidate, also started a program to feed children around the world. In 2001 McGovern published a book titled “The Third Freedom: Ending Hunger in Our Time.”
* In October 2007 McGovern endorsed Senator Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination but seven months later switched to Senator Barack Obama and urged Clinton to drop out of the race.
* After politics, McGovern founded a nonprofit organization to help alcoholics in the name of his daughter Teresa. She died of exposure while intoxicated in 1994 after years of addiction.
Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by Jackie Frank