Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Two thousand people (and dinner was $1,000 a plate) rose when Hubert Horatio Humphrey entered the dining room not as a senator and not as a leader of the Democratic Party merely, but as an American symbol of the good heart and the good fight.
He walked in more slowly than most people ever saw him walk - the bright and battering bounce all gone from his footstep - but nobody ever saw him stand straighter, either, and his voice strengthened as he spoke.
A couple of minutes after senator entered with his wife, Muriel, Rosalynn Carter entered, waving.
A minute later the President entered, alone, as the band played "Happy Days Are Here Again."
Humphrey has just been through 10 days of "intense chemotherapy, which has just about knocked me for a loop," he said, "but I wanted to get enough strength to be with you tonight."
The evening was a tribute to Humphrey, whose doctors have said he has a terminal illness, and the formal beginning of a $20-million public subscription for the Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, at the University of Minnesota.
By Friday night a fourth of the sum had been raised, it was reported, and one anonymous man gave a million dollars for the school that will be dedicated this July.
The President, who is rarely available for jocular after-dinner speeches at testimonial rituals, proved an enormous hit:
"My friend Charles Kirbo was in town and said every time he saw me I looked older and older, but Hubert Humphrey looked younger and younger."
That, said Jimmy Carter, is because Humphrey knows how to handle politics. The President said he himself did not (general guffaws).
There was a time, Carter went on, when Humphrey (a liberal and a founder of Americans for Democratic Action, after all) was the symbol of everything conservative Southerners detested:
"He was quite well known in Georgia," the President said (laughter), and when Humphrey walked in one door, the Georgians walked out the other.
Once, he said, his mother, Lillian Carter, met Muriel Humphrey at a Georgia airport to take her to a reception during a political campaign. Mrs. Humphrey asked if black women would be present at the party, because she would not attend if no blacks went.
President Carter said the women of his family went to tell the hostess, and came out to assure Muriel Humphrey there are blacks, so everything went off well.
What Mr. Humphrey didn't know, Carter said, was that the black women were maids who had taken their aprons off and been converted to guests. "It was the first intergrated reception in South Georgia," he said.
Another time Carter saw Humphrey, when Miss Lillian was working in India with the Peace Corps, and Humphrey asked about her.
"I think she's lonely," Carter told Humphrey. "She hasn't even seen the Peace Corps officials" in several months. Very soon, however, a high official of the corps called on Miss Lillian, tooke her shopping and to dinner in Bombay and delivered her home with a bottle of bourbon. "By the way, Miss Lillian," he said, "who the hell are you.?"
The President paused a second, relishing his story and the grins of the audience, and said:
"It was only later that he knew who she was - a friend of Hubert Humphrey."
Last year, he said "everyone said, 'My first choice is Hubert Humphrey; if he doesn't run, then I'll support you.'"
Humphrey sat quietly through this, near tears (he said later), and Carter said he'd never forget Humphrey in the governor's house in Altanta, when Amy came in and bounded over to him with some soft and very crumbly brownies. Humphrey talked of politics and strategy with Amy on his knee and brownie crumb all over his face, the President said.
And since then, "I've called him when I was in trouble." and the audience began to think that in this great barnlike room with its gaudy lights and inhuman scale, nevertheless one of the good minutes of the Republic was taking place on a very human scale indeed.
"I am proud," said the President," "to be the President of a nation that loves a man like Hubert Humphrey so much, and who could be loved by him."
The band played "Happy Days," and perhaps nobody wanted to think about death. And yet it will come not merely to the sick but to the well, and this obvious truth, so unavoidable to the mind Friday night, gave a striking depth to the tribute.
Humphrey rose to speak:
"My heart is strong," he said. "My spirits are good. The medical reports are encouraging."
And he added, "my knees are shaking." (Laughter).
"I know," he said, "I'm a very fallible man. In recent days. I've found a different kind of strength."
The room was extremely still. Humphrey did not press the beauty of the moment, and he did not try to ignore it, either:
"The good Lord," he said, "is watching over me."
A woman in summer gauze threatened to snuffle and dabbed her nose. A lot of men lit up.
There was entertainers to make the program bright; Comedian Alan King, acto Lorne Greene who sang an adulatory and sentimental song off pitch - it would never have done to sing it really well, since the evening was already overcharged with emotion - and Frank Sinatra and Helen Reddy, singers.
The room was dotted with important people - the Vice President, senators, people from embassies, the Secretaries of State, Agriculture, Defense, Labor; the leaders of House and Senate, and many of Humphrey's own staff. Before the supper of chicken and string beans, there were drinks and people milled about, among them former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger:
"I love Hubert Humphrey. His concern for humanity is an inward thing."
A number of people left after Humphrey spoke.
They were glad to hear from him that the Lord was looking out for his welfare. They had always sort of thought He was.