Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Muriel Humphrey told her husband, the senior senator from Minnesota, that he could "go hear about yourself at that dinner and get all puffed up," but she, her part, was going to Minnesota to help with the birth of their 10th grandchild.
So Hubert Humphrey went to the dinner, got all puffed up, and said it was absolutely marvelous.
The tribute to Humphrey was staged at the Sheraton Park Hotel Wednesday by a committee that wants to persuade America that full employment is feasible policy and necessary action, and 1,240 paid $100 each to further the work of the National Committee for Full Employment.
Not all the 300 people listed as chairpersons, co-chairpersons, vice chairpersons, congressional co-chairmen and so forth, actually spoke.
And in any case, few have ever expected to be edified or entertained at testimonial dinners, those grave American experiments in endurance and the limits of the mind.
Humphrey, bright as a new-bathed dog on the first warm day of spring, fairly bounded to the podium - much of his color has returned since his cancer operation - to add a new twist:
He thanked every one who spoke, amplifying the remarks of each, and managed to do it in 34 minutes, or substantially less than the original speakers.
Everybody present knew Humphrey's record in civil rights, humanitarian legislation, and some even remembered the days when rural electrification was new, and some remembered even father back than that.
President Carter sent praise: "You have helped shape our society in the image of those who conceived it."
About the time Humphrey got a mouthful of wine or a bite of salad, some fellow would come by to swat his shoulder or some woman would lean over his shoulder to tweak his chin or pat him.
Far from being furious at such indignities, Humphrey glowed through all of them.
At his left was Pamela Harriman, who took care not to blow her cigarette smoke in his face, and to his left sat Vice President Walter Mondale, who scribbled on a piece of paper through much of the dinner and who said, when he got up to speak, that words failed him.
Nevertheless, he went on, it was Humphrey's compassion and selfless concern for others that most impressed him. Once, he said, while waiting for a call from Lyndon Johnson who was on the verge of naming him his running mate, Humphrey heard of a widow's distress and phoned her on the only line to his room. Talked for half an hour.
Not every man, Mondale said, would phone the widow when his own political future was hanging on a phone call. He did not point out that not every man would talk for half an hour, as well.
The senator's reputation for talking was alluded to by most of the speakers, and many were the laughs.
Humphrey also felt his eyes fill from time to time, and wiped them once with a napkin, once with both hands, and once with a handkerchief. In the rare moments that someone was not leaning over him, he leaned about to greet those at nearby tables.
Rep. Morris Udall said, "You have been ahead of us, leading the way," and Skip Humphrey, member of the Minnesota legislature, gave a touching picture of the senator with "a gang of grandchildren tumbling around his bed on Saturday mornings watching the Pink Panther."
Lorne Greene, television actor, said Humphrey talked a lot, yes, "but he has always done more than talk."
Coretta King was asked before the dinner what came to her mind first when she thought of Humphrey and said, "his commitment to justice."
Jonas Salk, whose serum set back polio, spoke of his humanitarianism and Sargent Shriver, alluding to Humphrey's defeat for President said, "The importance of what he has done exceeds any office he might have won."
As the tributes poured out, Humphrey sat at full attention, usually resting his left hand against his face, occasionally laughing when the praise weighed more than a ton per square foot, but then sometimes nodding assent, too.
Averell Harriman said the most important thing was Humphrey's "vision of peace, free of the threat of nuclear disaster." Sen. Edmund Muskie spoke of Humphrey as "this gallant man," and Lane Kirkland spoke at length of Humphrey as a friend of labor.
Eventually, when it was Humphrey's turn, he said:
"I should say thank you and sit down. But you know better than that. (Laughter). So sit back," and he began the main, and most varied, speech of the dinner. He once rose to a pitch of passion, his voice less gentle than usual, when he spoke of the unemployed - "poverty is their curse, poverty is their abuse. The indignity of unemployment, the shame of it in a rich society - we should not even contemplate to endure it, and we need not."
How can the millions who have no work love their country or respect it, he demanded. "We build a time bomb for self-destruction" when men are out of work and alienated.
He also said what everybody was waiting for after all the outpouring of affection and praise for him:
"My eyes are teared. My spirit is lifted."
People have sat through more, to hear less.