Clarence C. Mondale, 87, GWU emeritus professor of American civilization


Clarence C. Mondale, an emeritus professor of American civilization at George Washington University, was also former vice president Walter F. Mondale’s brother. He died May 2 at age 87. (Family Photo/Family Photo)
May 6

Clarence C. Mondale, an emeritus professor of American civilization at George Washington University and a brother of former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, died May 2 at his home in Washington. He was 87.

The cause was melanoma, said a daughter, Lucy Mondale.

Dr. Mondale, widely known as Pete, taught at GWU from 1965 until his retirement in 1992. Earlier, he was on the faculty at the University of Minnesota and was credited with starting the American studies program at the University of Alabama in the early 1960s.

His academic concentration was on regional identity in the United States, and he co-wrote with American studies scholar Michael Steiner “Region and Regionalism in the United States: A Source Book for the Humanities and Social Sciences” (1988).

In his review for Great Plains Quarterly, historian Frederick C. Luebke called the book “so useful that most scholars seriously working in regionalism will want to benefit from the authors’ wide-ranging yet measured assessments.”

Early in his tenure at GWU, Dr. Mondale led a Peace Corps training program. He also coordinated the “Poor People’s University” on GWU’s campus in 1968 as part of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s “Poor People’s Campaign,” which marched on Washington to address poverty and other issues concerning the nation’s underclass.

From 1969 to 1977, Dr. Mondale directed GWU’s now-defunct division of experimental programs, an interdisciplinary academic initiative.

Clarence Cowan Mondale was born July 12, 1926, in St. James, Minn., to Theodore Mondale, a Methodist minister, and the former Claribel Cowan, a music teacher. He grew up in southern Minnesota, relocating as his father changed assignments during the Depression.

“Dad never made more than $1,800 a year, so we just squeaked by,” Dr. Mondale told People magazine. “But we never felt poor.”

He was a 1943 graduate of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., then entered the Navy during World War II. He received a master’s degree (1954) and a doctorate (1960) from the University of Minnesota, both in American studies.

Besides his brother Walter, of Minneapolis, survivors include his wife of 63 years, Virginia Aceto Mondale of Washington; seven children, Alex Mondale of Portland, Ore., Sarah Mondale of Suffern, N.Y., Eric Mondale of Oakland, Calif., Peter Mondale of Vienna, Va., Leo Mondale of Céligny, Switzerland, Tad Mondale of New Orleans and Lucy Mondale of Herndon, Va.; another brother, William “Mort” Mondale of Selma, Ore.; and 13 grandchildren.

Dr. Mondale drew press attention when his younger brother Walter served as Jimmy Carter's vice president from 1977 to 1981 and was the Democratic nominee for president in 1984. He lost in a landslide to incumbent President Ronald Reagan.

Dr. Mondale told The Washington Post in 1984 that his relationship with Walter was strained at times because of sibling rivalry. “We’re not close,” he said. “We’re in two different worlds. But we are sympathetic.”

“Everyone is overshadowed by someone,” he added. “You can’t wring your hands and hide away in a closet.”

adam.bernstein@washpost.com

Adam Bernstein has spent his career putting the "post" in Washington Post, first as an obituary writer and then as editor. The American Society of Newspaper Editors recognized Bernstein’s ability to exhume “the small details and anecdotes that get at the essence of the person” and to write stories that are “complex yet stylish.”
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