Call Me Tom
The Life of Thomas F. Eagleton
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Missouri Press
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Title Page. Copyright Page
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On an unusually cool mid-August day in 1994, a groundbreaking ceremony took place on South Tenth Street in downtown St. Louis. The honoree was a sixty-five-year-old white-haired longtime native about to have a building named after him. After the ceremonial shoveling, he said in that familiar deep, raspy voice, “A poll indicated that a majority of Americans...
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1. Growing Up in St. Louis
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Thomas Francis Eagleton was born on September 4, 1929, in St. Louis, Missouri, on a warm, sunny day in the glow of Hoover prosperity. Even though the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported a slight drop in stock prices on that day, industrial, railroad, and utility stocks remained at near-record highs. Albeit modestly, St. Louis shared in the prosperity of the time....
2. Serving City and State Government
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The swearing in of Tom Eagleton as circuit attorney took place on New Year’s Day, 1957, at 11:00 a.m. It was a joyous occasion attended by members of the bench and bar, city dignitaries, friends, and members of the family. Many who knew Eagleton from his student days at County Day praised him and expressed confidence in his ability to serve. Several praised to...
3. The Inaugural 1968 Senate Campaign
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According to Charles Kaiser, the author of 1968 in America, 1968 “marked the end of hope.”1 John F. Kennedy had first inspired it in the 1960 campaign when he optimistically proclaimed that a New Frontier awaited America. Many young people especially heard his clarion call as they dedicated themselves to national service and public life. Martin Luther...
4. Promising Beginnings
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The move from St. Louis to Washington, D.C., proved more problematic than anticipated since Tom and Barbara wanted to live in the city. Being assigned to the Senate’s District of Columbia Committee, which oversaw the city’s affairs, made that even more desirous. Historic Georgetown, where Jack Kennedy had lived while in the Senate, became a personal...
5. The Eagleton Affair
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The most defining moment in Tom Eagleton’s public life involved his abbreviated Democratic nomination for the vice presidency in 1972— the only vice presidential nominee forced to resign from the ticket. The Eagleton affair has all the elements of a Greek tragedy—it inflicted pain...
6. In the Arena
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If Eagleton suffered any letdown from the tumultuous events of 1972, it failed to affect his performance the following year. Indeed, belying his freshman status, he was as energetic as ever while playing a significant role in the most important issues of the time—ending the war in Indochina and seeking to restore the authority of Congress in preventing future Vietnams....
7. The Final Campaign
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In 1980 a Democratic incumbent seeking reelection did so with some trepidation. Tom Eagleton was no exception. Beginning in the late ’70s, Democrats lost favor nationally because of budget deficits, double-digit inflation, rising unemployment, and a continuing energy crisis, with prices at the pump climbing to more than a dollar by 1978. This was accompanied...
8. Combating the Reagan Revolution
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The year 1981 ushered in a period of conservatism that had no equal since the Hoover era. A seventy-year-old former Hollywood actor, before becoming California governor in 1967, became its prophet and spiritual leader. Unlike his predecessor, Jimmy Carter, President Ronald Reagan exhibited a vision that he skillfully communicated to the American people....
9. The Personal Eagleton
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By the time Tom Eagleton had departed from the Senate, those who knew him well were aware of who he was as well as what mattered to him. Above all, his continued devotion to his late father most stood out. Probably no day passed without his thinking of him. It did not take much to inject Mark’s memory into a conversation or a letter as he referred to...
10. The Sage of St. Louis
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Once he had made his decision not to run for reelection, Tom Eagleton would leave the Senate and the Washington, D.C., area three years later with no regrets. Unlike many departing senators, he had never caught what Harry Truman called Potomac fever, and he had no desire to be a Washington lobbyist. “Ex-Senators are like ex–University Presidents,” he...
11. The Final Years
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As the 1990s drew to a close, Eagleton had begun to reduce his workload. He officially resigned from FANS Inc. as of January 29, 1996, ended his weekly columns in the Post-Dispatch by December 1997, and, with rare exception, curtailed speechmaking. Regarding the latter, he wrote that “when you turn 67, you will better comprehend why I’ve gone out...
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Page Count: 324
Publication Year: 2011
Series Title: MISSOURI BIOGRAPHY SERIES