The Washington Post
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar

  Vice President Gore's Father Dies

Former senator Albert Gore Sr. in 1966 (AP)
By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 6, 1998; Page B8

Albert Gore Sr., a liberal who was elected as a Democrat to seven terms in the House of Representatives and three in the Senate and saw his son, Albert Jr., become vice president, died Dec. 5 at the family home in Carthage, Tenn. He was 90 years old and had been in failing health.

The vice president and his wife, Tipper, were at Sen. Gore's bedside.

Sen. Gore, who had worked his way through college and law school by teaching and farming, frequently put his determination, intellect and rhetorical gifts to the service of causes with which his party was closely associated.

He was widely known for refusing to sign the document known as the "Southern Manifesto." It was circulated by fellow lawmakers from his region who objected to the Supreme Court ruling that public school segregation was unconstitutional.

He said he "read it once" and gave "a definite, flat, 'no.' "

Sen. Gore, credited also with providing major impetus for the interstate highway system, was one of the most prominent Democrats in the upper chamber and came close to gaining the Democratic vice presidential nomination in 1956. He was again viewed as one of the principal prospects for that post in 1960, when the nod went to Lyndon B. Johnson.

In his last term in office, he opposed two bitterly divisive Supreme Court nominations made by the Nixon administration. He also opposed the anti-ballistic missile system, and he was one of the foremost Senate foes of the Vietnam War, which he once called "an American nightmare come true."

Such stands were viewed by commentators as those of Gore the statesman, rather than Gore the politician. They were exploited by Republicans during his 1970 reelection campaign, in which he became a prime target of the Nixon administration's so-called Southern strategy. He was defeated by Bill Brock in a memorably bitter race.

President Clinton paid Sen. Gore tribute last night as a teacher and a progressive, "a great patriot, a great public servant who was truly a real role model for people like me in the South in the 1960s." Clinton said Sen. Gore "helped to connect the South with the rest of America" by helping to correct the view of the South as an undereducated region of discriminatory practices.

Albert Arnold Gore was born the day after Christmas in 1907 on a small farm near Granville, Tenn. In a campaign biography, he said he believed the fire of ambition may have been ignited in him while attending a one-room schoolhouse in a mountain cove east of Nashville.

His teacher had him stand up before the entire student body because he had learned the alphabet in a single week.

After high school, he began teaching in Overton County, in a town nicknamed "Booze," in honor of the moonshine produced there. By Christmas, he had the $200 needed to start college. After graduating from the state teachers' college in Murfreesboro, he ran for school superintendent in Smith County and lost.

The winning candidate later died, and Sen. Gore got the job, holding it long enough to enable him to take four years of night classes at the YMCA law school in Nashville.

Not long afterward, he became state commissioner of labor. In Sen. Gore's second year, a place opened in the state's congressional delegation, and at age 29, after practicing his oratory "among the trees and limestone boulders," he defeated five opponents and won the seat.

In his maiden congressional speech, he opposed a Roosevelt administration measure expanding borrowing power for the U.S. Housing Authority. A newspaper reported that his speech "stopped the show" and won the newcomer an ovation befitting an elder statesman. The oration was credited with influencing many representatives to vote against the measure, which was defeated.

He resigned his House seat to serve in the Army during World War II but was reelected on his return. In 1952, he defeated Sen. Kenneth McKellar in the Senate primary. McKellar forces printed placards reading: "Thinking feller/Vote for McKellar." Beneath them, the Gore camp affixed posters reading, "Think some more/and vote for Gore."

Early in his Senate career, he won attention with a seven-hour extemporaneous address against the Dixon-Yates contract, which opponents called a giveaway of Tennessee Valley Authority generating facilities.

The Oak Ridge facilities that played a key role in the development of the atomic bomb were in Tennessee, and during his legislative career, Sen. Gore became a specialist in nuclear matters.

The campaign biography he published in 1970, "The Eye of the Storm," recounted his refusal to sign the "Southern Manifesto."

"I was placed in the anguishing position of either violating my legislative conscience by signing a thoroughly unsound document or of appearing to go 'against the South,' " he wrote. But, he said, "I took a stand on principle and the people of my state approved." He was reelected in 1958.

In 1970, however, with the Republicans increasing their statewide strength in Tennessee and with Vice President Spiro T. Agnew singling him out for blistering rhetorical attacks, Sen. Gore was defeated. He became vice president of a coal company.

In his remarks last night, Clinton described Sen. Gore in his later years as "alert and active in contributing and remarkably free of bitterness or rancor even after he left the Senate and his elected life was terminated."

After Sen. Gore's defeat, he vowed that "the truth shall rise again."

His son was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives six years after Sen. Gore's defeat.

In addition to his son the senator is survived by his wife, Pauline, whom he met during his law school days, when she was also working her way through law school.

The couple had a daughter, Nancy, who died of lung cancer in 1984 at age 45.

Staff writer Peter Baker contributed to this report.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

Back to the top

Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar