Nearly 20 years after the money was first appropriated, and more than 30 years after he died, a memorial to Hubert H. Humphrey is now taking shape on the State Capitol grounds in St. Paul.
A Minneapolis mayor, U.S. senator and U.S. vice president under President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s, Humphrey never held state office, but state officials said Humphrey's "statewide significance" justifies the $678,000 memorial. The memorial, which will be dedicated next spring, will include a 7-foot statue of the late vice president, a bench and engraved stone panels.
More than $243,000 of the project's cost was raised privately.
"Fundraising's never easy, but I'll tell you we got as small a contribution as $2," said Hubert "Buck" Humphrey IV, Humphrey's grandson, who said the contributions flowed in from across the country. Buck Humphrey said he hopes the memorial's lasting legacy will be for schoolchildren visiting the State Capitol. "When those kids get off the bus [they're] going to see Hubert Humphrey and they'll hopefully just at least get curious about who this guy was," he said.
So large does Humphrey's legacy loom in Minnesota that even the state's current Republican Party chairman has paid his own small homage. Tony Sutton said he once bought a small bust of Humphrey at an antiques store that is now displayed in his living room.
"He was an icon in Minnesota, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat," Sutton said, "a noted leader who in a lot of respects put Minnesota on the scene nationally. It's wholly appropriate to honor him."
When the stone panels are set up this fall, they will carry engravings of Humphrey's more famous quotes including this one from 1977: "It was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped."
There will also be this one from 1967: "Freedom is not real to me when I have it and my brother does not, when my nation enjoys it and another does not, when my race achieved it and others have not."
Humphrey will join a smattering of other famous Minnesotans honored by memorials on the Capitol grounds: Former Govs. Floyd B. Olson and John A. Johnson, former U.S. Sen. Knute Nelson and civil rights leader Roy Wilkins.
Paul Mandell, a principal planner for a State Capitol area planning board, said a pedestal will boost Humphrey's statue to 9 feet high, to ensure visibility. "To be on the [Capitol] mall, you really have to be larger than life or you get lost," he said.
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