Stacy Conradt
Stacy Conradt

Grave Sightings: Hubert Humphrey

Stacy Conradt
Stacy Conradt

With the state of politics lately, it’s hard to imagine a generous act of kindness from one political rival to another. But if Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon were capable of burying the hatchet, there’s hope for anyone.

Humphrey, a senator from Minnesota, ran for president several times. In 1952, he lost the Democratic nomination to Adlai Stevenson. In 1960, of course, he faced a charismatic young senator from Massachusetts named Jack Kennedy. In 1968, Humphrey, who was vice president at the time, came closest to the presidency—but Nixon triumphed by a little more than 500,000 popular votes.


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Though he graciously admitted defeat and pledged to help the new president-elect, Humphrey wasn’t shy about criticizing Nixon. Just 10 months after Nixon took office, Humphrey stated that the administration had done “poorly—very poorly” overall, citing the increase in interest rates and the cost of living. Nixon and his team, Humphrey said, had “forgotten the people it said it would remember.” He was still making his opinions known four years after the election, turning his eye to Vietnam. “Had I been elected, we would now be out of that war,” he told the press on January 10, 1972.


Stacy Conradt

The Watergate scandal broke later that year, and Humphrey no doubt felt validated. He mounted another unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1972, but lost the nomination to George McGovern. Humphrey briefly considered trying one more time in 1976, but ultimately nixed the idea. "It's ridiculous — and the one thing I don't need at this stage in my life is to be ridiculous," he said. The public didn’t know it at the time but the politician had been battling bladder cancer for several years. By August 1977, the situation had become terminal, and Humphrey was aware that his days were numbered.

When he knew he had just a few weeks left to live, Humphrey did something that would stun both Republicans and Democrats: He called former rival Richard Nixon and invited him to his upcoming funeral. He knew that Nixon had been depressed and isolated in his political exile, and despite the Watergate scandal and the historical bad blood, he wanted Nixon to have a place of honor at the ceremony. Humphrey knew his death would give the former president a plausible reason to return to Washington, and told Nixon to say he was there at the personal request of Hubert Humphrey if anyone questioned his motives.

Humphrey died on January 13, 1978—and when the funeral was held a few days later, Nixon did, indeed, attend. He stayed out of the Washington limelight, emerging right before the ceremony—to audible gasps. Humphrey’s gracious act must have been on Nixon’s mind when he listened to Vice President Walter Mondale sing the fallen senator’s praises: “He taught us all how to hope, and how to love, how to win and how to lose. He taught us how to live, and finally he taught us how to die.”

Nixon wasn’t the only former foe whom Humphrey had mended fences with. Barry Goldwater, who ran against Humphrey in 1964, had this to say:

“I served with him in the Senate, I ran against him in campaigns, I debated with him, I argued with him. But I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a friendship as much as the one that existed between the two of us. I know it may sound strange to people who see in Hubert a liberal and who see in me a conservative, that the two of us could ever get together; but I enjoyed more good laughs, more good advice, more sound counsel from him that I have from most anyone I have been associated with in this business of trying to be a senator.”

After the ceremony in D.C., Humphrey was buried at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis. His wife, Muriel, joined him there when she died 20 years later.

Peruse all the entries in our Grave Sightings series here.

9 Fascinating Facts About John Quincy Adams

Today marks the 251st birthday of John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States (and son of our second POTUS, John Adams). Born on July 11, 1767 in a part of Braintree, Massachusetts that is now known as Quincy, the younger Adams was a pretty interesting guy. From his penchant for skinny-dipping to his beloved pet alligator, here are some things you might not have known about the skilled statesman.

1. HE WAS ELECTED PRESIDENT DESPITE LOSING BOTH THE POPULAR AND ELECTORAL VOTES.

The election of 1824, which saw John Quincy Adams face off against Andrew Jackson, is the only presidential election that had to be decided by the U.S. House of Representatives, as neither candidate won the majority of electoral votes. Despite losing both the popular and electoral vote, Adams was named president by the House.

2. HE LOVED MORNING CARDIO.

When it comes to personal fitness, early birds have an edge. Studies have shown that morning workouts can curb your appetite, prevent weight gain, and even help you get a good night’s sleep later on. Nobody understood the virtues of morning exercise better than Adams. As America’s foreign minister to Russia, Adams would wake up at five, have a cold bath, and read a few chapters from his German-language Bible. Then came a six-mile walk, followed by breakfast. 

3. HE WAS AN AVID SKINNY-DIPPER.

As president, Adams got his exercise by taking a daily dip in the Potomac … naked. Every morning at 5:00 a.m., he would walk to the river, strip down, and go for a swim. Sadly, the most famous swimming anecdote likely never happened. The story is that when Adams refused an interview with reporter Anne Royall, she hiked down to the river while he was swimming, gathered his clothes, and sat on them until he agreed to talk. But modern historians tend to agree that this story was a later invention. That’s not to say, however, that Adams never talked about Royall. In his diaries he wrote “[Royall] continues to make herself noxious to many persons; treating all with a familiarity which often passes for impudence, insulting those who treat her with incivility, and then lampooning them in her books.”

4. HE ENJOYED A GOOD GAME OF POOL.

Adams installed a billiards table in the White House shortly after becoming president. The new addition quickly became a subject of controversy when Adams accidentally presented the government with the $61 tab (in reality he had paid for it himself). Nonetheless, political enemies charged that the pool table symbolized Adams’s aristocratic taste and promoted gambling.

5. HE WAS AN AMAZING ORATOR, BUT TERRIBLE AT SMALL TALK.

Although Adams was nicknamed “Old Man Eloquent” for his unparalleled public speaking ability, he was terrible at small talk. Aware of his own social awkwardness, Adams once wrote in his diary, “I went out this evening in search of conversation, an art of which I never had an adequate idea. Long as I have lived in the world, I never have thought of conversation as a school in which something was to be learned. I never knew how to make, to control, or to change it.”

6. HE KEPT A PET ALLIGATOR IN A BATHTUB AT THE WHITE HOUSE.

Adams had a pet alligator, which was gifted to him by the Marquis de Lafayette. He kept it in a tub in the East Room of the White House for a few months, supposedly claiming that he enjoyed watching “the spectacle of guests fleeing from the room in terror.”

7. WHEN IT CAME TO POLITICS, HE PLAYED DIRTY.

The presidential election of 1828—when incumbent John Quincy Adams got crushed by longtime rival Andrew Jackson—is famous for the mudslinging tactics employed by both sides. Adams’s side said Jackson was too dumb to be president, claiming that he spelled Europe “Urope.” They also hurled insults at Jackson’s wife, calling her a “dirty black wench” for getting together with Jackson before divorcing her first husband. Jackson’s side retorted by calling Adams a pimp, claiming that he had once procured an American girl for sexual services for the czar while serving as an ambassador to Russia.

8. HE’S RESPONSIBLE FOR ACQUIRING FLORIDA.

Next time you find yourself soaking up some rays in the Sunshine State, take a moment to thank Adams. As Secretary of State, Adams negotiated the Adams-Onís Treaty, which allowed the U.S. to acquire Florida and set a new boundary between the U.S. and New Spain. That’s right: Walt Disney World might not have been built if it weren’t for the sixth president.

9. HE KIND OF HATED BEING PRESIDENT. 

Adams once reportedly stated, “The four most miserable years of my life were my four years in the presidency.” But even if he hated being commander-in-chief, Adams couldn’t bear to be out of the political loop for too long. After finishing his term as president, Adams served 17 more years in the House of Representatives, where he campaigned against further extension of slavery. In fact, he died shortly after suffering a stroke on the House floor.

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Columbia Pictures
11 Surprising Facts About In the Line of Fire
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

In 1993, after more than a decade of moving from the hands of one producer to another, Jeff Maguire’s script for In the Line of Fire finally made its way to the big screen. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen, the film starred John Malkovich, Renee Russo, and Clint Eastwood as a longtime Secret Service agent still harboring guilt about not being able to protect JFK—and ready to make sure another presidential assassination doesn’t happen on his watch. The cat-and-mouse game ended up earning more than $100 million at the box office, making it the seventh highest grossing film of the year. To celebrate the political thriller’s 25th anniversary, here are 11 things you might not have known about In the Line of Fire.

1. THE SCRIPT MADE THE ROUNDS.

Clint Eastwood in 'In the Line of Fire' (1993)
Columbia Pictures

Jeff Maguire wrote the script for In the Line of Fire more than 10 years before it would ever hit the big screen—and his lack of success getting a script produced in the interim had put him and his wife in a precarious financial situation. With mounting credit card bills, overdue rent, and a phone that was about to be disconnected, Maguire and his wife were just getting ready to give up on Los Angeles and move toward a quieter life in New Hampshire when he got a call that Rob Reiner’s Castle Rock Entertainment had purchased the script for a cool $1 million.

“That day we traded in a blouse I got my wife for her birthday so we could go out and celebrate," Maguire told The New York Times of how the couple found the cash to celebrate his success. The hard work—and waiting—paid off: Less than a year after almost giving up on the Hollywood dream, Maguire earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

2. THE IDEA WAS PARTLY INSPIRED BY A MEETING WITH LYNDON B. JOHNSON.

The idea to write a script about a Secret Service agent was suggested to Maguire by producer Jeff Apple, who had long dreamed of making a political thriller when, as a child, he had the chance to meet Lyndon B. Johnson but was equally impressed by the security detail that surrounded the then-Vice President.

3. AT ONE POINT, ROBERT REDFORD WAS ATTACHED TO STAR.

Though Clint Eastwood will forever be associated with the role of ultra-dedicated Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan, he was hardly the first choice for the role. As the script made its way around Hollywood over the years, a number of other actors were either attached to or offered the project, including Robert Redford. Dustin Hoffman, Sean Connery, James Caan, Tommy Lee Jones, and Val Kilmer were among the other names wanted for the role of Horrigan.

4. ONE STUDIO WANTED IT TO BE REWRITTEN FOR TOM CRUISE.

Though Maguire was anxious to get the script sold, he had a very clear vision for the story and wasn’t willing to compromise on certain points—even if it meant passing up a big payday. When the higher-ups at Imagine, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s company, expressed interest in purchasing the script if Maguire would rewrite the lead so that a younger actor like Tom Cruise, who was in his late 20s at the time, could play it, the struggling scribe flat-out refused. Making the character younger would mean that he’d have to toss out the JFK subplot, which was a deal-breaker for Maguire.

5. ROBERT DE NIRO WAS THE FIRST CHOICE FOR THE ROLE OF MITCH LEARY.

John Malkovich turned in a creepy and memorable performance as Mitch Leary, In the Line of Fire’s would-be presidential assassin. But like Eastwood, Malkovich wasn’t the filmmakers’ first choice for the role. That honor belonged to Robert De Niro, who eventually had to pass on the project due to scheduling conflicts with A Bronx Tale. Jack Nicholson and Robert Duvall were also reportedly in contention for the part.

6. FRANK HORRIGAN WAS INSPIRED BY ONE OF JFK’S SECRET SERVICE AGENTS.

Though the movie is a work of fiction, main character Frank Horrigan was partly inspired by Clint Hill, one of John F. Kennedy’s Secret Service agents who was on duty the day the 35th president was assassinated in Dallas. In 1975, Hill sat down for an emotional interview with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, where he broke down and admitted that he felt responsible for what had happened that terrible day.

“I still feel today a sense of failure and responsibility because that was our job: to keep the president safe, to protect him at all costs,” Hill said. “And on that particular day, we were unable to do that.” Much of Horrigan’s desire to right that wrong came from Hill’s interview.

7. THE SECRET SERVICE OFFERED THEIR FULL COOPERATION—WHICH WAS A FIRST FOR THE AGENCY.

In the Line of Fire holds the distinction of being the first movie that received the Secret Service’s full cooperation in getting the film made. “They didn't agree to help us because they thought the film would portray them in a heroic light—Clint plays a pretty flawed character, and John [Malkovich]'s character makes some very negative points about the Secret Service,” director Wolfgang Petersen told the Los Angeles Times. “I think the Secret Service was interested in the possibility of their world being accurately portrayed in a Hollywood film for the first time. They didn't want us to make a commercial for them, they just wanted it to be real, and though they had no creative control, they made many suggestions we happily accepted.”

8. WOLFGANG PETERSEN WAS A LITTLE INTIMIDATED BY CLINT EASTWOOD.

Though he was already a highly acclaimed director with two Oscar nominations on his resume (for writing and directing 1981’s Das Boot), Petersen admitted that the idea of directing a Hollywood icon like Eastwood was a slightly terrifying prospect.

"I must admit, I was initially a bit intimidated at the prospect of directing Clint, but any fears I had disappeared after our first meeting, and once we started shooting he never challenged my direction," Petersen told the Los Angeles Times. “At the beginning he told me, 'I won't interfere, but if you want my advice I'll be there for you—otherwise I'll leave you alone.' I took up his offer and consulted him a lot.”

9. DROPPING EASTWOOD INTO HISTORIC MOMENTS COST A PRETTY PENNY.

In order to create as realistic a portrait as possible of Eastwood’s history with the Secret Service Agency, the filmmakers implemented some state-of-the-art computer effects to swap out the faces of real agents with the actor’s to show him being part of key events with Bill Clinton and George Bush. But as the JFK plotline was so integral to Horrigan’s character, it was important to Petersen that the audience be able to witness that as well, which became their biggest challenge, as Eastwood would have been 30 years younger. The solution? Drop footage of Eastwood from the original Dirty Harry into archival footage of JFK’s motorcade. It’s estimated that 10 percent of In the Line of Fire’s $40 million budget went to its digital effects.

10. JOHN MALKOVICH COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT ALL THE RUNNING.

When asked about the toughest part of playing the unhinged antagonist, Malkovich admitted that it was the physicality of the role. "The hardest thing about this part was all the running I had to do,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “I hate running and don't intend to do it again for a long time. I didn't train for the running scenes either—I just put down my cigarettes for a minute and ran."

11. IT COULD BE TURNED INTO A TV SERIES … MAYBE.

Frank Horrigan could rise again. In 2015, Deadline reported that In the Line of Fire was being turned into a television series at ABC. There’s been no update since on any casting or a release date, so it very well could be a stalled project. But you never know.

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