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Exhibition Honors Mondale's Life of Public Service

JUNE 9, 2008—An exhibition entitled "A Voice of Wisdom, Compassion, and Hope: A Celebration of the Life and Career of Walter F. Mondale" continues in the University of Minnesota Law School's Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center at the Law Library. The University of Minnesota community and the public are invited to view the exhibition.

The collection, consisting of historical papers, personal notes, and much more, chronicles Mondale's public-service career, beginning with his years as Minnesota Attorney General (1960-1964) and continuing through his service as U.S. Senator (1964-1976), Vice President under President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), presidential nominee (1984), and U.S. Ambassador to Japan (1993-1996).

The exhibition opened in April in conjunction with a celebration of Mondale's 80th birthday (January 5, 2008). The focal point of the celebration was the Fourth Annual Law Library Distinguished Lecture delivered by Senator Patrick J. Leahy in honor of the life and career of Walter F. Mondale. The celebration also included remarks by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and comments by Judge William C. Canby Jr., a classmate of Mondale (Class of 1956), at a gala birthday reception.

The exhibition highlights through photographs, letters, documents, and memorabilia Mondale's pivotal role in many decisive episodes in American political history. It illustrates his lead role as Attorney General in 1962 in a landmark Supreme Court case, Gideon v. Wainright, that required state courts to supply legal counsel for indigent defendants in criminal cases. It also documents his efforts at the 1964 Democratic Party Convention that led to an integrated, nondiscriminatory southern Democratic party: Mondale brokered a deal allowing the all-white delegation from Mississippi to be seated along with two African-Americans, and he established a commission to prevent future discrimination.

Mondale's long career as a spokesman for reform and justice in the U.S. Senate is richly illustrated. The exhibition covers his leadership in enacting civil rights legislation, especially for fair housing, which passed against long odds, and in creating the modern filibuster. His decisive role in the "Church Committee," a historic investigation into American domestic and international security services, is also documented.

The centerpiece of "A Voice of Wisdom, Compassion, and Hope" is Mondale's historic memo of December 9, 1976, to President-Elect Jimmy Carter, in which he created a blueprint for the modern Vice Presidency. "I believe the most important contribution I can make," Mondale wrote, "is to serve as a general advisor to you… The biggest single problem of our recent administrations has been the failure of the President to be exposed to independent analysis not conditioned by what it is thought he wants to hear or often what others want him to hear."

The Law Library gratefully acknowledges the support of Dorsey & Whitney LLP in making the exhibition possible and the cooperation of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, the Minnesota Historical Society, the Elmore (Minn.) Historical Society, and the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum.

The exhibition is located in the Law School's Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center, Walter F. Mondale Hall, 229 19th Avenue South, subplaza level, Room N-30. It can be viewed Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., or by appointment. Please contact Katherine Hedin, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections, at 612-625-7323.

 

Vice President Mondale and President Jimmy Carter
Vice President Mondale confers with President Jimmy Carter in January 1979.
Courtesy of the Carter Library

Vice President Mondale and Hubert Humphrey
Vice President Mondale and Hubert Humphrey on March 16, 1977, ten months before Humphrey's death. Mondale's close relationship with Humphrey began in 1947 when he volunteered to help in Humphrey’s Minneapolis mayoral campaign.
Courtesy of the MN Historical Society

Walter Mondale speaks at a Senate Hearing
U.S. Senator Walter Mondale speaks at a Senate Hearing June 23, 1966.
Courtesy of the MN Historical Society

Walter Mondale at age 18, with prominent Elmore, Minnesota, businessman Serle Wise
Walter Mondale (left) at age 18, with class chaperone and prominent Elmore, Minnesota, businessman Serle Wise on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol building. The photo was taken during Mondale's high school senior-class trip in April 1946.
Courtesy of the Elmore Historical Society